OPINION: Maybe, maybe not

WELL, I tried my best this time last year to predict the major events of 2012. 

My best wasn’t very good, I’m afraid. Mark Arbib didn’t become  prime minister, for a start. 

But that isn’t going to stop me from trying again this year.

Just stick this column to your fridge and tick the following predictions off as they come true in 2013.

JANUARY: Newcastle City Councillors resolve to convert the city’s famous ‘‘roundhouse’’ administration building into a casino, to raise money for infrastructure repairs. Council staff are instructed to make the plan a reality. 

FEBRUARY: A giant open-cut coalmine is proposed for the area at present occupied by the Hunter Valley vineyards. Vignerons protest, but the NSW government says the mine, if approved, will be subject to ‘‘stringent conditions’’. The Minerals Council says coal and wine can coexist and condemns protesters as ‘‘anti-progress radical socialists’’.

MARCH: Newcastle City Council receives a casino proposal from its staff. The $46million plan incorporates two poker machines, a meat raffle and a chocolate wheel but will require an additional 700 employees.  The council narrowly votes in favour of the plan, after heated debate. Greens councillors oppose the meat raffle but agree after a vegetarian option is added. The chocolate wheel is abandoned as too difficult.

APRIL: Under pressure over the plan to strip-mine Pokolbin, the government announces the proposal will be considered by an independent commission. Submissions are invited.

Power prices rise by 25per cent. Retailers blame solar panels for the hike.

MAY: GPT and Landcom unveil their joint concept plan for Newcastle’s mall precinct. The 25-storey residential tower features 750 apartments and no car parking spaces. 

JUNE: Newcastle’s casino proposal is bogged down in controversy after the budget is revised up to $77million. Staff had forgotten to allow for power points for the poker machines, and their project management fee has gone up, due to inflation. Greens councillors demand a guarantee that all produce in the vegetable raffle will be certified organic.

JULY: Strong submissions against the Pokolbin coalmine proposal are lodged by the health department, the office of water, the department of environment and heritage, Hunter Valley vignerons and dozens of other groups. Only the department of planning supports the proposal, arguing the benefits outweigh the costs. A petition of 30,000 Hunter residents calls on the government to refuse the application. 

AUGUST: A Newcastle City Council meeting degenerates into a shouting match, as councillors debate the latest budget blowout. The proposed casino will now costs $98million, but won’t have room for any poker machines. It will require an additional 1020 employees to operate. Greens councillors refuse to support the plan unless the organic vegetable raffle contains at least 15per cent bush tucker.

SEPTEMBER: The Pokolbin coalmine is recommended for approval and the government accepts the recommendation, saying the interests of Hunter residents will be safeguarded. 

OCTOBER: The state government is asked to intervene in Newcastle’s long-running roundhouse casino dispute. The cost estimate is now $117million and the organic vegetable raffle is dropped when council staff reveal they forgot to include refrigeration facilities to ensure food safety standards could be reliably met.

NOVEMBER: Hunter vignerons  launch a new regional flagship wine, ‘‘Hunter semillon black’’. The new product, marketed under the slogan, ‘‘Now white is really black’’, is described as ‘‘a perfect winter warmer’’. 

DECEMBER: Newcastle City Council abandons its controversial roundhouse casino plan, announcing that it will instead bolster earning capacity from its traditional gambling product, parking meter roulette. 


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