Greg Piper’s bill to protect Newcastle rail corridor fails to win support of major parties

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

The Newcastle rail corridor east of Stewart Avenue.► Comment: Conspiracy theorists remaining on track

► Planning hearing to open

NEITHER the government nor Labor look likely to back Lake Macquarie independent MP Greg Piper’s bill to protect the Newcastle rail corridor from development after the heavy rail line is truncated.

But Premier Mike Baird says the government will consider measures to ensure the community is ‘‘comfortable’’ with its Newcastle city centre revitalisation project.

Mr Piper has introduced the bill and is expected to bring it on in Parliament on Thursday.

Under the provisions, development on the rail corridor between Wickham and Newcastle would be limited to public open space, areas for passive recreation, kiosks, cafes and amenities or public transport.

That would allow cycleways, gardens and parks, walkways, pedestrian overpasses and public art installations, with development consent from the city council.

Mr Piper has said it would honour the original rhetoric from the government that the land would remain for public space or new transport.

But since deciding on a light rail route that would traverse only part of the corridor the government has not ruled out some form of development on the vacant land, although it has said it does not support high rise.

Members of the government, including Mr Baird, have held discussions with Mr Piper about the bill, but it is understood the Coalition partyroom did not favour supporting it.

Mr Baird said on Wednesday his government understood Mr Piper’s concerns.

‘‘What we’re determined to do is have the community proud of the processes … that this is their project,’’ he said.

Asked if that meant the government wouldn’t back the bill, he said ‘‘we’re in discussions with Greg’’.

Labor said the bill was only a ‘‘plan B’’ when the government should not go ahead with the truncation in the first place.

‘‘If the government has no plans to develop the corridor then why isn’t it backing this bill?’’ Labor transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said.

The rail line is due to be closed for truncation on December 26.


I’M yet to hear of a more sensible measure to placate legitimate concerns about the truncation of Newcastle’s rail line that have emerged in the wake of the recent corruption inquiry into political donations – and to silence the conspiracy theorists who were there all along.

But Greg Piper’s bill, to prevent development of the rail corridor for uses other than passive recreation, cafes and community spaces once the trains are gone, seems destined to go without the support needed to make it through NSW Parliament and into law.

One would have thought that if removing the heavy rail and installing light rail along part of the corridor was not an elaborate and expensive ruse for handing over the rest of the land to developers to erect soaring apartment towers, then the Baird government would just back the independent MP’s bill to prove it.

And if Labor is serious about stopping the ‘‘greedy developers’’, why not lend its support?

But in state politics, commonsense rarely applies.

Governments typically don’t like private members’ bills, as they tend to look foolish for not coming up with the legislation in the first place.

And Labor, still campaigning against the removal of the rail, won’t want to lose one of its key arguments – that the government is cosying up to developers after a number of them filled the Liberal Party’s coffers with illegal donations ahead of the last election.

The ALP would also be reluctant to help Piper to such a victory when it still hopes to take back his seat some day, even if his bill is aimed at protecting the community’s interests.

In practical terms, if the government doesn’t back the bill then it won’t make it through the lower house.

And if it won’t do so, then it needs to hurry up and explain what will happen to the corridor land, before it closes the heavy rail in less than two months and before we all start to listening to the conspiracies.

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