PAUL Broad has resigned as chairman of the Hunter Development Corporation after more than seven years, citing a ‘‘massive shift in power from Newcastle to Macquarie Street’’ and shortcomings with aspects of the government’s city revitalisation plans.
Mr Broad, regarded as among the region’s most influential advocates, warned the Hunter is losing its voice in discussions about its own fate while it lacks a coherent and unified position on issues such as the heavy rail line.
The Baird government believed as a result that the region needed ‘‘saving from itself’’, and had allowed ‘‘the big bureaucracies to dominate’’ the planning of the city.
‘‘We are able to run our own race up here but given the way we self-destruct when anyone says anything new, Sydney thinks we can’t be left alone,’’ he said.
Mr Broad resigned, effective immediately, on Friday afternoon.
‘‘It’s time to let others have a crack,’’ he said.
Speaking to the Newcastle Herald, he praised the government for ‘‘doing what needed to be done’’ and deciding to remove the heavy rail, which had led to a surge in investor confidence and development in the city.
‘‘All that massive development and investment and jobs – it’s exactly what we need,’’ he said.
But he has concerns about the government’s underwhelming vision for the Wickham transport interchange.
‘‘What we need to think about is a much bigger interchange, with cars, buses, taxis, light rail if that’s what you want – look at the air space above it, make the most of that,’’ he said. ‘‘Do it right and buy The Store ... look at office space with it, and get the private sector in.’’
Unconvinced about light rail, he said the government would be better to focus on getting the interchange right and then determine the best transport system once the new law courts building in the Civic precinct opened and the University’s city campus and other developments take shape.
While the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) has been criticised by some as pushing the property industry’s interests, Mr Broad said it would not have sought development on the rail land.
But UrbanGrowth NSW, which was put in charge of the project in early 2014, is now evaluating development options.
‘‘[The government] should tell UrbanGrowth to get out of the corridor,’’ Mr Broad said.
He said his strong views, coupled with frustrations about the Government Property agency interfering in former BHP land at Mayfield that HDC was to remediate, meant it was time to leave.
He said he was proud to have overseen new investment in the city and growth across the wider area, and to have pushed projects such as the duplication of the Tourle Street bridge.
The region’s further potential, particularly areas such as Williamtown, remained enormous. Currently the managing director of Snowy Hydro Limited, Mr Broad was chief executive of telecommunications company AAPT until mid 2011.
Prior to that, he was boss at EnergyAustralia, Sydney Water and Hunter Water.
He left AAPT to be inaugural chief executive of advisory body Infrastructure NSW – one of the most influential positions in the state government sector.
He and its inaugural chairman, former premier Nick Greiner, are widely credited with driving the cautious O’Farrell government to commit to major infrastructure projects in Sydney, before they both resigned.
Less known is Mr Broad’s and HDC’s part in defying Nathan Tinkler’s relentless lobbying campaign to build a coal loader at Mayfield.