Newcastle Property Council boss Andrew Fletcher rallies support for rail corridor rezoning

Andrew Fletcher
Andrew Fletcher

The Property Council of Australia has issued a call to arms to the Newcastle business community to back a rezoning proposal for the inner-city rail corridor.

The group’s Hunter director, Andrew Fletcher, will take aim at “NIMBY groups” in Newcastle when he addresses its monthly lunch on Friday.

The state government’s UrbanGrowth agency submitted a rezoning proposal to Newcastle City Council in July last year for about 4.25 hectares of the rail corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle station.

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The proposal allows for at least a dozen buildings and three parks on the land.

Greens MLC David Shoebridge said at the time that the rezoning proposal would open the way for wall-to-wall buildings on land that should be preserved in public ownership.

Newcastle City Council deferred putting the plan on exhibition in an attempt to force the government to produce a comprehensive transport strategy for the city and, having received assurances one was forthcoming, agreed to start community consultation last month.

It will host a public forum on the rezoning proposal on Wednesday, but Mr Fletcher will fire an early salvo at Friday’s lunch.

“Individuals opposed to change are always the most vocal, whereas those in support are inclined to be quieter,” he said in a preview of his speech supplied to the Herald.

“The reality of NIMBY groups is their members have the spare time needed to organise multiple letters of objection, but we can’t let Newcastle’s positive momentum get hijacked by a faux community campaign.

“Now is the time for the silent majority to be heard and set up the city for jobs and growth.”

Mr Fletcher said the “conspiracy theorists” who believed that cutting the heavy rail line was meant to satisfy greedy developers were “trotting out the same old rhetoric”.

He said the property industry supported keeping most of the corridor for public use and that large, high-rise development on the land was not feasible.

“Already, the amenity of Newcastle has skyrocketed with the heavy rail infrastructure gone, and there have been some fantastic, early improvements made in the rail corridor.

“Amazing public spaces and more great places to play, like the Market Street Lawn, will encourage further investment, stimulate more demand, and deliver unrivalled liveability.

“Add world-class tourism infrastructure that allows Newcastle to host major events like the V8 Supercars Championship, and the city can grow new jobs while boosting global awareness of the Hunter.

“Right now is a crucial moment in time when our political leaders need to hear the broad community support which exists for maintaining Newcastle’s positive momentum.”