FIRST they said they wanted to cut the rail line to connect the eastern part of the city with the harbour.
That actually sounded OK to me, as long as they cut it at Civic.
I could see some point to that. For a while they were going to cut it at Civic, but then they changed their minds and wanted to cut it at Broadmeadow. The main argument in favour of that was it would free up lots of land to sell, so they could pocket some cash from the exercise.
Maitland people killed that idea. It was going to stuff their train travel and they actually have political clout, being reputedly a marginal seat and all, so goodbye Broadmeadow truncation plan. Sorry, Mr Costa.
Then it was maybe Woodville Junction and then some place called Wycombe, which I think is just Wickham in disguise.
To sweeten it up, the Wickham idea came with a light rail link to replace the clipped-off bit of heavy rail, and that was getting paid for by selling our port to China and Westpac.
At first they said the light rail would probably run on the old heavy rail corridor because, hell, why not? It’s already there and it’s got rails and stations and stuff. It was all going to get landscaped and become a kind of green corridor, with a nice little tram running up and down it.
All the while, there were people mumbling in the background saying watch the government’s hands while it shuffles the cards because this deck is stacked. They pointed out that the rail corridor was the only bit of ground in town that didn’t have coalmines under it and was destined, therefore, for buildings.
Perish the thought, cried the government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
But then somebody gave birth to a thought bubble that involved putting the light rail down Hunter Street, just like in the olden days. Because everybody knows how much Novocastrians love their olden days. Don’t worry, though, the old heavy rail corridor would still be open space, forever and ever.
Except next thing, a couple of government ministers, hunting about for places to stick up some scaffolding and stuff, noticed what a very nice heavy rail corridor it was and thought out loud how it could be improved out of sight by just a spot of development.
Nice development, of course.
Apparently it turned out that nobody had ever really said there wouldn’t be development and, by the way, we are at war with Eurasia and Eastasia is our friend.
Always has been.
In the meantime, GPT (remember them, they were mad keen to save Newcastle, and bought everything in sight at exactly the same time as they were spending gazillions redeveloping Charlestown Square so it would become the hugest and best shopping centre in the universe) rode back into town with a bag of free money from some government thing called UrbanGrowth (sounds like some kind of tumour, to me).
“We know we stopped loving you because you wouldn’t cut the rail, but now it’s getting cut anyway, we love you all over again,” said GPT. “Especially with our close friends from the government here to help us. And especially with, like, 50 storeys of apartments. Is that OK with everybody? Good.”
Next thing, somehow, Fred Nile wound up chairing an inquiry into whether or not any of this song and dance might have been in any way affected by all that ICAC stuff where everybody you ever met got bags of money for no particular reason and then quit politics, also for no particular reason.
Just as that was about to start, the Property Council (it’s like the Minerals Council, except it’s for property developers, if you see my point) said the rail corridor should never be built on. So its hands are clean, right?
And then somebody let slip that UrbanGrowth (that’s GPT’s best friend, remember?) thought it might be a good idea to build on just a teensy bit of the rail corridor, especially the bit closest to where its GPT elevator to the moon apartment buildings are meant to be.
Meanwhile, the member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper (who really is an actual independent and maybe the last one in captivity since the rest might really be Libs or Labs, apparently) asked Parliament to pass a law saying the rail corridor should always remain open space except for, you know, a coffee thing or a small tent, now and then.
And can you believe it, nobody in the whole Parliament – not Liberal, not Labor – can see their way clear to support him.
Do you know how this story ends?
I think I do.