If you think the Laman Street figs issue is damaging Newcastle's credibility and economy, add your voice to those community leaders and ratepayers calling for the state government to intervene. Say enough is enough.
Newcastle’s business sector led the charge yesterday, saying Newcastle City Council’s performance was costing the region financially.
The council has held about 20 meetings to discuss the future of 14 fig trees, and business leaders want to know at what cost to the Hunter economy.
To read the Herald's opinion on the matter, click here.
‘‘Newcastle used to be an important and dynamic city in the state’s and the nation’s economy, but now it is just irrelevant,’’ Hunter Land chairman Hilton Grugeon said.
Newcastle federal MP Sharon Grierson said management and elected councillors had to be mindful of how the city was presented to potential investors.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive officer Kristen Keegan said the business community could be the big losers in the figs crisis.
‘‘We would like to know what projects we are missing out on in Newcastle and the Hunter because of the focus on these fig trees,’’ Ms Keegan said. ‘‘What projects are not being attended to because of this, and what image of Newcastle is this sending out to potential investors in the region?’’
Newcastle Alliance chairman Paul Murphy said he had spoken to Newcastle state MP Tim Owen about the possibility of bringing forward local government elections scheduled for September next year.
‘‘We want to investigate the possibility of holding these local government elections earlier so the Newcastle community is not held to ransom,’’ Mr Murphy said.
NIB managing director Mark Fitzgibbon said issues that involved community consultation were difficult, but it was the council’s job to resolve these issues quickly.
Developer Keith Stronach said vocal minority groups were also to blame for wasting the time and energy of councillors and council staff and it resulted in projects being delayed.
Marcus Westbury was the founder of the Renew Newcastle group and was named Newcastle council’s citizen of the year in 2010 for his efforts.
‘‘I think the figs are the least of council’s problems,’’ Mr Westbury said.
Former Cessnock councillor and Centennial Coal communications manager Katie Brassil said the council was a ‘‘talented and competent bunch as individuals’’ but collectively ‘‘dysfunctional’’.
Developer Jeff McCloy was scathing in his assessment of the fig tree saga.
‘‘If that was in my office, the decision would have been made in an hour,’’ Mr McCloy said.
‘‘What sort of image is it portraying to state government when we have to go to the Premier to ask if we can chop down a tree.’’
Former Newcastle councillor Helene O’Neill said councillors had to be prepared to change their opinions if it meant representing what the community wanted.
‘‘I can’t believe it has taken this long because surely the independent assessment would have been done in the first instance,’’ Ms O’Neill said.