Monday, October 18, 2010

Laman Street Civic Precinct Design Framework

Parks and Playgrounds Movement calls upon Newcastle City Council to officially exhibit the Draft ‘Laman Street and Civic Park Precinct Design Framework’ and resolve the design framework before contracts are entered into for implementation of the Laman Street section.


Please see the information provided below which sets out the history of Council’s action on the Precinct and explains the importance of resolving this design matter so that the design can be transparently determined and professionally implemented.

This is a very important matter in the heart of Newcastle and must be implemented in an open and transparent way and not by the clandestine techniques being used currently by the Newcastle Council which denies the people of Newcastle a voice in the determination of the design process.

The Civic Precinct is another project started by the Parks and Playgrounds Movement so many years ago and we have had to watch Councils over the years not really know what was important in the project and now move in a ham-fisted way to widen Laman Street into the Civic Park and cut the trees down before finalising a workable design acceptable to the community.

We are adamant that the design be properly and professionally determined implemented in a transparent way now.

We have had to urgently seek a remedy in the Land and Environment Court to prevent the Council misusing the Roads Act to widen Laman Street into the Civic Park and cut down trees.

I would appreciate your help in reading the statement attached and making representations to your member of Parliament and the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for the Hunter and the Minister for Planning and shadow Ministers too.

This is a very urgent matter.

Please Help.

If you would like to kindly make a donation to help defray court cost we would be very appreciative.


Yours Sincerely
Doug Lithgow.

Laman Street Civic Precinct Design Framework

Parks and Playgrounds Movement calls upon Newcastle City Council to officially Exhibit the Draft ‘Laman Street and Civic Park Precinct Design Framework’ and resolve the design framework before contracts are entered into for implementation of the Laman Street section.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement have a long term interest in the Civic Precinct. We first placed a concept for the Civic Precinct before the Newcastle City Council which was received at the Works Committee Meeting of the 16/4/1968. Council did not have a professional Town Planner at that time and the concept languished. We had to lobby over many years to get Council to appoint a Planner. However Council began acquiring property around Civic Park and implemented projects such as the Administration Centre and Wheeler Place Plaza.

In the past decade and a half we have seen Council involved in proposals for the precinct:

1. the Allen Jack and Cottier Civic Design 1995,
2. Council’s Plan of Management for Civic Park and Laman Street 2000,
3. The Government Architect Newcastle Civic Cultural Centre Master Plan 2003.
4. The Civic Precincts Park Plan of Management Review and Public Domain Plan 2005,

The Civic Park Plan of Management (Point 2. above) was the only plan officially exhibited and formally adopted. (A requirement under the Community Land provisions LG Act 1993)
The professional development of the latest Precinct Design Framework and its implementation following official exhibition has been hijacked by the Council’s Asset Management Group with its exaggerated tree risk analysis and what appears to be the General Manager’s ambulatory powers under delegation to remove trees and widen the Laman Street into Civic Park.

This has prevented the proper resolution of the Precinct Design Framework in a transparent way with public scrutiny and ownership of the ultimate overall scheme and is to be deplored. Council’s own report of the 18th May 2010 recommended public exhibition of the Precinct Design Framework. This transparent process is absolutely essential in order for the Design Framework to be professionally resolved and transparently adopted for implementation.

The public may remember the way the Newcastle Council closed the unique Fernleigh Tunnel in 1996 on exaggerated risk grounds. This delayed the implementation of the Fernleigh Track for many years. The Track with its distinctive historic tunnel is now open and well used and is a much appreciated part of Newcastle’s public infrastructure.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement calls for the Public Exhibition of the Draft Design Framework for the Civic Park Precinct and its transparent resolution.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Does Civic Park Really Need Fixing?

Dear Colleagues and citizens of the planet,

Please have a look at this Youtube clip:.

This short Video puts the finger on the Newcastle pulse and is clearly critical of the negative myopia of the Newcastle Councillor’s who on the 17th August 2010 decided:

“ The Hills fig trees in Laman Street Newcastle between Darby Street and Dawson Street be removed as soon as possible and replaced with a central line of Hills Figs as soon as suitable trees can be provided"

Such an action would put our Cultural Precinct back in the fifties.

It will take thirty years for the replacement trees to reach a mature form and a row of trees in not the cathedral quality we enjoy in Laman Street now.

Hardly the action of mature men and women with the city at heart.

Look about you see and acknowledge what is good and work to protect it for all to enjoy.

Doug Lithgow

Other videos:

Save the Figs: The 8 Stupid Reasons to Cut Down Nice Trees">Save the Figs: The 8 Stupid Reasons to Cut Down Nice Trees

The Perilous Figs of Laman St

"HONK to save Laman Street Figs" , Newcastle.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

GPT Pullout Provides City with a New Opportunity

GPT pulling out of Newcastle gives the city a new opportunity to identify the real issues and think of real people not just property speculation.

People with the future of Newcastle at heart may be interested in this letter P&PM sent to the Minister for the Hunter in July 2009. With GPT pulling out of their proposed Newcastle operation there is another opportunity to look at the real issues and the real people and not just the property speculators.

I think this letter is just as relevant as it was when it was written. It was the P&PM submission to the HDC Report. The HDC is not the sort of body that should produce such a report and it would be a disaster if this is to be their revised Approved Scheme under the Growth Centres Act slipped through as the 1988 Hurst CBD POM was. It sets out our attitude to the Report

Please read and forward on to friends if you think it a fair statement.

Doug Lithgow

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Hon Jodi Mckay MP Minister for the Hunter.
Governor Macquarie Tower
Level 37, 1 Farrer Place,

Dear Minister,

Newcastle City Centre Renewal Report to the NSW Government
March 2009

Parks and Playgrounds Movement wish to respond to the Report on the HDC Web Site and a News Release from the Member for Newcastle and NSW Minister for the Hunter titled Newcastle City Centre Renewal Report to the NSW Government March 2009

The Movement does not share the News Release enthusiasm for the Report on the HDC web site.

The Movement has seen many visions and rejuvenation reports come and go over the past fifty years. Sadly it is at the time of crisis as with the current World Financial Crisis and the December 1989 Newcastle Earthquake that vested interests promote visions and reports with little consideration of the interest of the general public. City planning must serve the general interest of the public and not be based on property speculation and arbitrary individual wants.

To be effective planning must be based on a realistic understanding of needs and the morphology of the City and this is best achieved by sound incremental development that identifies and protects the essential heritage features that give meaning and understanding to the development pattern while recognising the potential and problems of the future.

Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay said there is no hiding from the issue of rejuvenating the Newcastle City Centre and the NSW Government wants the community to help shape the future of inner-city Newcastle and the Hunter region.

The HDC Report is full of motherhood statements that it then denies in its detail.

The Report is unmistakably biased and prejudiced against passenger rail services which are in reality crucial to the 21st century liveable city.

The report boils down to a plea for more money for the HDC and for the Commonwealth to finance the arbitrary movement of facilities to new locations.

A perfect example of this faulty thinking in action was when the Royal Newcastle Hospital was removed after the 1989 Earthquake from the Newcastle East where it had an excellent location and public access, to New Lambton Heights where it was sited on the Highway 23 road reservation causing intractable problems such as the requirement for a new and more environmentally destructive highway relocation and transport and access problems. The removal of the hospital from Newcastle has been the single most debilitating action in the old town. The HDC and City Council have been hiding from this fact and blame everything else but themselves for their action. No amount of residential redevelopment can return the activity that had evolved in that area around the Hospital over nearly two centuries.

The report makes a plea for money to finance four principal projects:

    * relocation and expansion of the University of Newcastle’s campus in the city.
    * relocation of the Court house and legal offices to the Civic.
    * removal of railway infrastructure from the city and construction of interchange facilities near Wickham.
    * redevelopment of Hunter St Mall.

None of these wish list projects really require the removal of the rail infrastructure from the city to be initiated. Indeed all of the projects if really needed would benefit from the retention of passenger rail services.

Ironically it is the Madison Wing at the Hospital site that was the first real university push into the city and that is earmarked for demolition!  Of course the university should be encouraged to consolidate its city campus and student accommodation but that will be much more successful with passenger rail services are retained.

The existing Court House precinct has a logic and distinctive presence that is capable of expansion where it is rather than be relocated at Civic. It would be far more logical to return the  NSW Department of Planning to the civic where it would have a logical presence as it used to have when the Northumberland County Council and the SPA were located at the Civic.

The GPT suburban mall type proposal should never have been facilitated by the LEP for the CBD. It will destroy permanently the historic Dangar Axis which defines the old cathedral town and will overpower the pedestrian scale of the existing Hunter Street Mall area with its ugly elevated carpking structure. This elevated parking structure will also obliterate the historic panorama from the Cathedral. The existing Market Street –Queens Wharf –Cathedral (Dangar Axis) link should be emphasised by any new development in the Mall area. Newcastle Council had an excellent proposal recently before it that satisfied this important criterion.

The removal of passenger rail services from Newcastle as proposed would wipe out the opportunity of Newcastle to show off its unique sense of place and prevent the Newcastle Lake Macquarie and Maitland urban area from having a transit orientated future.

The following check list is provided to help understand what is happening to Newcastle.

Living City – since HDC the city has declined, principally because of the1988 CBD Business Plan which was meant to revitalise the city has unfortunately become a blue print for its demise.

The $100 million dollars Building Better Cities funding which should have been used to create a public domain foreshore park extending the Joy Cummings 1981 Harbour Foreshore Scheme through to Throsby Creek was not well used. The public domain foreshore parkland is still needed as the centrepiece of the Central Honeysuckle development. The Honeysuckle Approved Scheme Masterplan proposed a rail overbridge crossing at Wickham which should have been built at the same time as the Carrington Bridge with ‘Building Better Cities’ money.

Economic Diversity - should be encouraged by developing the natural and heritage advantages of the City Centre. The positive promotion of the city has never been attempted and it is always stories of woe. We have a magnificent theatre in the Victoria Theatre but it is empty and we never have promoted and developed the positive advantages of the Old Town.

Revitalise retail – It is not practical or in the public interest to try to make the Cathedral town of Newcastle a Charlestown like suburban shopping mall. It needs to retain its traditional character and be a speciality market orientated place something like the university Cathedral town of Durham in England or like the Rocks in Sydney.

Commercial Investment- since HDC and the city centre Committee, the inner city has fallen prey to property speculation rather than to sound commercial development. This HDC Report unfortunately is heavily skewed in favour of property speculation rather than practical public interest planning for a future city that will feature Transit Orientated Development.

Public Transport – the report as shown above struggles to thwart the creation of a public transit orientated city by being prejudiced against our existing passenger rail infrastructure. Passenger rail services have been an essential and distinctive feature of the city of Newcastle for over 150 years. Yes the services should be improved and modernised and trains should not be stabled in the open foreshore corridor. Improvements should be made to Newcastle Station. The grand entrance reopened and an arrival and departure concourse developed.

Criticism of 8 car rail sets with only a few passengers have been made but Newcastle is currently the end of the CityRail electric service and 8 car sets will only be full when special events are planned in the city on the foreshore. There is no reason why sets could not be more often split into 4 car sets at Gosford for services on to Newcastle. Special daily excursions should be organised from Sydney and the Central Coast to visit Heritage sites, the Convict Mines, Macquarie Pier and Nobbys, Fort Scratchley and Christ Church Cathedral. These things are merely operational details that can be altered to fit circumstances. Newcastle never promotes its natural and historical advantages. We hope that the current passenger bus fleet will be replaced by lighter electric powered vehicles in the new city of the future.. If there is an interchange to be constructed on the City Rail network in the northern area it should be as planned at Glendale in the Lake Macquarie Local Government area where it is more central and supported by all the local Councils.

The proposals for public transport in the report are not well conceived and are not in the interests of the public who use public transport.

Revitalising the Hunter Street Mall, Celebrating the special character of Newcastle and improving the quality of the public landscape and obtaining a better standard of architecture in new buildings are matters we all strive for but they will not be achieved until we truly identify the problems and potential of the existing city and promote the city in a positive and practical way.

Yours Sincerely,

Doug Lithgow  Freeman of the City of Newcastle
Parks and Playgrounds Movement

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

GPT Announcement

The GPT Group (GPT) announced it will withdraw from its proposed $600 million Newcastle development.

I realise that GPT is starting to open part of the new shopping centre at Charlestown this week but It could be thought that their strategy may have been to hold Newcastle until Charlestown was ready to be on line and not allow it to be in competition.

I can recall when the earthquake hit Newcastle in Dec 1989 the new Charlestown Square was being opened and the inner Newcastle was actually closed off with road blocks and a police cordon  put in place.(This was a silly idea not of their making but was to their advantage)  This gave Charlestown’s new Square a free start without competition. They have been able to steal a march on Newcastle this time with this latest body blow.

However it was always doubtful if their huge elevated car park slap bang in front of Newcastle’s Cathedral and the proposed internal shopping Mall replacing the open Hunter Street Mall would ever be a viable proposition with or without passenger rail connection.

GPT has actually had a strangle hold over the old historic City for too long and the City should now move to encourage a more sympathetic development as was proposed with the excellent Dangar axis stairway shopping and apartment project.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Ms Lindy Hyam
The General Manager
Newcastle City Council

Friday, 25 June 2010

Dear Ms Hyam,

Newcastle’s Civic Park Fountain

As you are aware the Parks and Playgrounds Movement has been concerned about the damage that was done to the Fountain by the Council at great cost in an ill-conceived effort to restore and maintain the fountain.

We were appalled when the fountain was stripped down and the copper forms annealed in a foolish effort to remove the dints that the forms had suffered since the fountain’s erection by Margel and Frank Hinder.

The Fountain is a work of art and the symbol of the Newcastle City Council used on every item of correspondence sent out by the Council. It is the central cultural embellishment in the Civic Park.

Other wrong things were done and even the surroundings of this unique sculpture of metal form and dynamic water jets were laid waste without careful thought or proper care.

I noticed as I passed the fountain today, Friday 25th June 2010, that the jets were still not operating correctly and that the patina has not yet been restored to the copper forms.

Council should restore the patina immediately and landscape the surroundings. This is something that can be done with minimum technical skill.

Also the ugly signs placed near the fountain could be removed forthwith and the intruding electrical control box painted an earth colour if it cannot be hidden.

I have enclosed a 1967 photo of the fountain showing one of two street Lights and white hand rail that council removed because they detracted from the sculpture. Past Councils did care about the city and its public spaces. It is disappointing that recent Councils have been uncaring and your Council needs to show that it has the City at heart.

The patina technique is explained by Frank Hinder in the attached excerpt ‘Hinder Fountain Patina Civic Park Jpg’ File.

It must be five years since Parks and Playgrounds Movement drew Council’s attention to this sad matter and for the sake of our city we would be pleased if these things could be attended to expeditiously.

Yours faithfully

Doug Lithgow President
Parks and Playgrounds Movement

Monday, June 14, 2010


The Editor
The Herald

Dear Sir,

Honeysuckle Openspace

Parks and Playgrounds Movement welcome the openspace push of Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay MP (Keep off the Grass 12/6 The Herald).

However we would be more impressed if the Hon. Minister clearly directed the Hunter Development Corporation to prepare and publicly exhibit a Varying Scheme under Section16 of the Growth Centres Act.  The HDC Growth Centre now includes every Local Government Area in the Hunter Region and their 1992 Honeysuckle Master Plan is utterly inappropriate for their extended Growth Centre.

What Ms McKay mentions as city planning errors of the past were in fact straight out flagrant disregard of statutory planning by the Honeysuckle Dev Corp at Central Honeysuckle! This was only possible because there was no effective oversight of the Corporation after 1997.

We need to revisit the vision of the former Lord Mayor Joy Cummings AM

Doug Lithgow President
Parks and Playgrounds Movement

To our conservation colleagues

It is clear that we need to begin setting out the issues and our views on maintaining the statutory zoning of our foreshore openspace and the protection of existing parks.

Furthermore the disregard of planning by the Honeysuckle Development Corporation and their non compliance with their own Act - i.e. The Growth Centres (Development Corporations) Act 1974,  the  foolish mistakes made such as:

- the buying the longshore Wharf and then demolishing it. 
- not carrying out Geo-technical work at the early stage, 
- wrongful advertising for Merewether Wharf development before rezoning in place, 
- tearing up Wharf Road, 
- building out the Flinders Cove without re-planning for the change, 
- building out the views to the harbour while claiming to be opening up the harbour, 
- not building the planned overbridge at Stewart Ave, 
- removing rail crossing overbridges and level crossing. 

Not to mention the complete disregard of the Joy Cummings foreshore initiatives of the 1980's. 

The talk about light rail is just talk and the real agenda is the to grab the public harbour front including the Newcastle Railway station. (The HDC aim is to get rid of rail commuters first!)

There is a lot of work to be done just to get the above information out to the general public over the next 2 years. 

We all need to take the time to understand the concept of the Honeysuckle Masterplan and the earlier Joy Cummings Foreshore Design with its protection of the public domain. 

We need to write every couple of months on one or more of the issues otherwise the truth will never be told. 


Friday, June 11, 2010


I recently asked the questions in my letter (Copy below) and received the heavily padded answer with the essential confirmation.

"In May we mentioned that Council was partnering with Bang the Table to provide an independently moderated online community space for discussing public policy”

Is this an independent organisation?

Lobbyists are behind community forum site Bang the Table, see:

That is bad news and the parternership should never have been entered into. Please click on the Crikey Hotlink above to read all about it.

We should see the Council Resolution authorising this action and the details of the contractural arrangements with Bang The Table should be placed on the public record. This is a very serious matter that needs further investigation to reveal the extent of what is going on and why.

What is Bang The Table is doing for the Council and why?

Also, what is the cost to the ratepayers.




Dear Newcastle Voice,

I notice that an article in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald stated that Newcastle Council was using an internet company known as Bang the Table.

In what way is Newcastle using the services of Bang The Table?

I noticed their logo on a recent Newcastle Voice Email.

Is information from Newcastle Voice site being provided to private internet companies?

I would appreciate your immediate reply.

Yours faithfully

Doug Lithgow

Copy to General Manager’s office


-----Original Message-----

From: Stephanie Prouse []
Sent: Thursday, 10 June 2010 10:10 AM
To: ''
Subject: RE: Bang the Table

Dear Doug,

Thank you for your email dated 9 June and your interest in Newcastle Voice.

The Panel Satisfaction survey, sent to all members in December 2009, revealed that panel members are very satisfied with the operation of Newcastle Voice in many areas. However, specific suggestions for improvement were also received, including:

    * Feedback on consultation results
    * Feedback on impact of community consultation and how contributions are influencing decision-making
    * Survey design to ensure that the survey questions were clear, unbiased, straight-forward and not open to misinterpretation.
    * Timeliness of surveys and newsletters
    * Request online discussions as another consultation tool

In May we mentioned that Council was partnering with Bang the Table to provide an independently moderated online community space for discussing public policy.

We started hosting discussions in June on a number of projects. The discussions are open to Newcastle Voice members as well as the broader community. The online discussions are branded Newcastle Voice, as are all of our consultations – workshops, focus group sessions, information sessions, where the broad community is invited to attend along with members from the Newcastle Voice reference panel.

Newcastle Voice members were invited to join the online discussions and can decide not to participate/join if they wish. They are not automatically signed up to join the online discussions.  Council manages the panel data and for privacy, and confidentiality reasons, rest assured we will not be sharing the panel information with Bang the Table or any other organisation. We are bound by our Privacy Statement. I am enclosing the link for your review.

Stephanie Prouse
Stephanie Prouse
The City of Newcastle
Community Consultation
P.O. Box 489, Newcastle 2300, NSW
Phone: (02) 4974 2144  (02) 4974 2144
Mobile: (02) 0428619778


The Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) should be disbanded if they continue to operate without an appropriate approved scheme‏.

Dear Conservation Colleagues,

Parks and Playgrounds Movement have watched the Newcastle rail debate wax and wane since 1952.

There may have been some justification in down grading passenger rail then but it makes no sense in the emerging future. Balance between private and public transport in a transit orientated urban pattern is essential for the modern urban city.

Regarding the Newcastle situation I have enclosed the two concepts that have some statutory expression.

1.  The Joy Cummings concept that is embodied partly within the current (in force) planning scheme. (Never properly implemented)

2. The other has statutory expression under Growth Centres Act 1974 in the 1992 Approved Scheme of the Honeysuckle (Hunter) Development Corporation.

The HDC should be disbanded if it continues to operate without an appropriate ‘approved scheme’ that has real relationship to their Growth Centre which now includes all of the Hunter Region Local Government areas.

Parks and Playgrounds policy regarding the Newcastle Old Town and the foreshore is simple.

Parks and Playgrounds movement supports the retention of rail services to Newcastle and the revision and full implementation of the Joy Cummings Newcastle Harbour foreshore Scheme.

We call upon the NSW State Government to vary the 1992 Honeysuckle Masterplan using Sec 16 of the Growth Centres Act and retain rail services to the historic Newcastle station. All the previous rail crossings, pedestrian and vehicular should be re-established and new crossings built as needed.

We oppose the removal of rail services and the closing and redirection of Wharf Road and the alienation of the Harbour Front and railway station area for Hotel, Retail and Mixed uses as proposed in the Honeysuckle approved scheme Precinct ‘D’

Doug Lithgow President
Parks and Playgrounds Movement

Friday, May 21, 2010

Remove the Coal River section from the Masterplan

Ms Lindy Hyam General Manager
Newcastle City Council
PO Box 489 Newcastle NSW

Dear Ms Hyam,

Coastal Revitalisation Master Plan: Remove the Coal River section from the Masterplan

I have been completely distraught by the so called Coastal Revitalisation masterplan and disheartened after a lifetime of work on the foreshore and the Coal River Precinct in particular.

I commenced consideration of this area as Secretary of the P&PM in 1968 when Council began planning for a car parking area around the southern edge of the Nobbys Headland with the Macquarie Pier to be used as an access!

Parks and playgrounds had been involved with supporting the National Parks Legislation through the Parliament at that time and we supported the Historic Site provisions of the Act. I used them to develop the proposal for the Newcastle East Historic Site including the Nobbys; the Convict built Macquarie pier and the first coal mine under Fort Scratchley.  Countless thousands of hours of work have been expended on this area by me and by so many other citizens of this city over the intervening years.

Having been kept in the dark about the existence of the current Coastline Masterplan process for 12 months and being refused the Memeorandum Of Understanding (MOU) except under FOI, I am so disappointed to see the Council has spent public money on this document especially as it affects our public coastal parks and public reserves.

The whole masterplan process was a fraud against the public from the start and should never have been started let alone kept secret the way it was.

Public reserves and public parks are established for the benefit of the public not for vested interests and a public processes should only be used for their management. The unnecessarily devious approach to the whole process by locking out the public has tainted the resulting document and it should be set aside.

With regard to the Coal River Precinct, Newcastle Council has an adopted plan “The Pizzey Plan” and any proposed developments must arise from that plan not some new arbitrary planning approach.

The Pizzey plan had public drafts before adoption by Council and was funded by the Council $20,000 with the NSW Heritage Council picking up the remainder of more than $20,000. Mr Pizzey consulted with all authorities and people having an interest in the area of the precinct.

The Coal River precinct should be removed from the coastal master plan and Mr Pizzey brought back to address the Councillors and advise on the Coal River Precinct and the implementation of the Coal River Plan proposals as a matter of urgency.

I had requested that the General Manager do this previously because our new Councillors don’t know the amount of work already done and how non contributory development should not be countenanced in this area.

I would appreciate you informing the General Manager of my deep disappointment and distress at her allowing this tainted document being put to the public and asking her to remove the Coal River section from it because of the existing planning framework that should be used.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement reserve the right to make further submissions to this document.

Yours Sincerely
Doug Lithgow President

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Call to the Minister to Stop Destruction of Merewether Surf House and Public Reserve

The Honourable Tony Kelly ALGA MLC

Minister for Planning and Minister for Lands
Minister for Infrastructure
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council
Leader of the House in the Legislative Council

Dear Minister,

Stop destruction of Merewether Surf House and Public Reserve No. 56681

Parks and Playgrounds Movement urgently request that you call in all matters dealing with Merewether Surf House and Public Reserve No 56681 Newcastle.

The Newcastle City Council are Trustees for this public reserve and are proposing to destroy the Surf House building. This is an activity that should only be performed if there is a proper publicly available registered lease containing guarantees that the Crown Lands Act 1989 will be complied with and the Merewether family Deed of Transfer honoured.

As Minister for Planning and Minister for Lands we call upon you to consider the architectural and historic association of this property with the Merewether and Mitchell families who gave the land to the Council for public recreation.

The Trustees of the will of Edward Christopher Merewether transferred most of the Merewether beachfront to the Merewether Council in 1930 (Deed No 944 Book 1617). The Deed binds Council and its successors and assigns at all times to use and maintain the land as a public park or public reserve and not permit it to be used for any other purpose whatsoever.

As Minister for Lands you have held the title to this land as Public Reserve No. 56681 since it was transferred to you in September 2008 and would be aware of the Deed of Conveyance. As Minister for Planning your Heritage Branch will be able to inform you of the negotiations with the City Council and the required restoration of the Surf House building.

The Parks and Playgrounds Movement respectfully asks that you will call in this matter and allow the Government to assess this matter within the principles stated in Sec. 11 of the Crown Lands Act of 1989.

Yours faithfully,

Doug Lithgow
Freeman of the city of Newcastle
President of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sailor’s Rock Pty Ltd does not have a lease of Surf House land at Merewether

A Title Search of Merewether Beachfront reveals that Sailor’s Rock Pty Ltd does not have a lease of land Lot 100 DP1130581 for the proposal in DA No: 08/1741.

You will recall that Newcastle Council in an effort to avoid responsibility for the restoration of the Surf House transferred the land to the Minister for Lands. The Movement is concerned that Council wrongly approved the development as a restoration/redevelopment of Surf House when clearly the proposal was an alienation of a Public Reserve dedicated for Public Recreation. Also the DA was inconsistent with the terms of the Deed of Conveyance of the land from the Merewether family.

The Trustees of the will of Edward Christopher Merewether transferred most of the Merewether beachfront to the Merewether Council in 1930 (Deed No 944 Book 1617). The Deed binds Council and its successors and assigns at all times to use and maintain the land as a public park or public reserve and not permit it to be used for any other purpose whatsoever.

The Minister for Lands now holds the title for this land as Public Reserve No. 56681 and is required to honour the Deed of Conveyance and consider the proper restoration of the Beach Pavilion.

The letter above was sent to all Councillors last weekend.

We had a FOI request into Council June 2008 but was not determined until 9 Nov 2009 (even then it was very much blanked out so much for transparency!)

However, we were able to establish that the Deed of Agreement between Sailors Rock P/t was signed by GM Lindy Hyam and Lord Mayor and Keith Stronach & Stan Panteleos in September 2008.

No lease had been registered up until last Wednesday therefore at this stage (last Wednesday) there is no Lease by any company or person.

The Transfer of the Merewether Land to the Minister was made by the Council on the 21 st August 2008 as a gift under Sec 134 of the Crown Lands Act 1989 under the signature of the GM and Lord Mayor.

On the 25th of September 2008 the Newcastle Council was made a Trustee of the gifted land. (Council was already the Trustee of the Baths area)

The Crown holds the Title and Council has been made Trustee for the public. So what was Community Land under the LG Act is now Crown Land and Plans of Management are no longer obligatory.

You must wonder what this is all about as we do.

Clearly Sailors Rock P/L has not taken up the Lease?

What Guarantees did Sailors Rock give to honour the Merewether Family Deed of Transfer to be offered a lease?

We hope that they were made because of the condition imposed by the Deed of Transfer from the Merewether Family in 1930. But we do not know.

The public interest has been left out of this matter since Newcastle Council began doing deals.

Enclosed is information about the building which is just a simple little building and could have been restored to its simple form donkey years ago.

Alienation of Public Land for sectional use has always been a problem in Public Park Management but has taken on a new drive by this Government.

Alienation of Public Parkland should be for a reasonable term 21 Years (No Bank would lend you funds for a commercial venture for such a long time).

Development in Public Reserves dedicated for Public Recreation must only be for uses that improve the public recreation and the test is, “what is the public access that is being served”?

The Merewether Beach Pavilion when it was in use was a public facility serving the recreational amenity of the beach area.

We are still waiting for answers?

Merewether covenant must be honoured

Parks and Playgrounds Movement believe that the Newcastle Council has dishonoured the legal covenant with the trustees of the will of Edward Christopher Merewether who gave most of the valuable Merewether beachfront property we now enjoy, to the Merewether Council in 1930. (Registered Deed No 944 Book 1617)

The covenant binds the Council and its successors and assigns at all times to use and maintain the land as a park or public reserve and not permit it to be used for any other purpose whatsoever.

Newcastle Council in its effort to avoid its responsibilities at Surf House transferred the land to the Minister for Lands as a consolidation of Land Title. It then encouraged and approved a commercial DA for the land which was clearly a denial of its responsibility under the covenant. Council claimed the development as restoration/redevelopment of Surf House when it was really alienation of a Public Reserve for private uses.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement endeavoured to reveal the truth by requesting freedom of information but our efforts were frustrated.

We call on the Newcastle Council and the Minister to honour the Merewether Covenant of 1930.

Doug Lithgow
President of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement
A Freeman of the City of Newcastle

Thursday, March 18, 2010

National Park Newcastle

To the Councillors of Newcastle City Council 
and the residents and ratepayers of Newcastle

Dear Councillors in the first instance,

Newcastle Council needs clear Title to National Park Newcastle and the whole park must be Categorised as Park 36G as well as Sportsgrounds 36F.

It was brought to my notice that Councllors were concerned about Newcastle Council’s tenure of the land known as National Park.

I searched the Title yesterday, Wednesday, 17 March 2010 and I can report that Council does not hold a clear Torens Title of the land conveyed in the Indenture and possibly never will.

I don’t know what Council did last Tuesday night but I hope that they clearly resolved to obtain:

1. An accurate land survey of the area we now regard as National Park and apply for a clear title with the Council of the City of Newcastle as proprietor and to;

2. Crategorise the whole of the park as Park and catagorise the whole park as Sports ground to show good faith and clear responsibility for the park in the terms of the principal Indenture.

These things should have been done before the Council decided to enter into discussions about further leases and licences with anyone.

The land is Old System Title and is actually smaller than the area described and conveyed under conditional title in 1913. It has been alienated with encroachments since the original grant to the Council by the AA Company.

Council has however made an application for a Title to land at National Park on the 3/2/2009.

No doubt it will take some time to obtain clear title to the unincumbered land. The park needs a modern survey to identify the land and the encroachments. Agreement will need to be reached between the various parties that have an estate in the land before Title can be issued.

In the PPM response to the exhibition of the POM I referred to the conditional title of the land at National Park which was agreed and declared by the Council and the Company that the land would hensforth be used as a Public Park and Recreation Grounds. I also enclosed part of the original 1913 hand written Indenture which in legal terms is still the principle indenture..

The AA Company gifted many parcels of land to the former Newcastle, Hamilton and Waratah Municipal Councils but was unable to trust the Councillors to abide by the their agreements and declarations and therefor included provision within the indentures for the Company to reenter the lands if the Council should default.

On the 21/9/1972 The AA Company and the Council agreed and declared that the principal indentures could be varied to remove certain rights of reentry etc for the parks described in the various indentures. But the lands have never been accurately surveyed and clear title issued.

Sadly the area of land conveyed to the Council in 1913 was much larger than the actual area that is National Park today. 

National Park Newcastle Dedicated for Park and Recreation Grounds (2/5/1913) 

Yours Sincerely,

 Doug Lithgow

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Newcastle City Council Coastal Reserves 2008 - Coastal Lands Plan from Fern Bay to Glenrock Lagoon -


Attached is also the draft Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) relating to coastal lands and binds to some extent the Department of Lands, Hunter Surf Lifesaving Inc. and the Newcastle City Council to create a new type of reserve (see the Map included in MOU) that allows commercial development opportunities to fund infrastructure and provide security of tenure for commercial operators to assist Surf Clubs. (One of the parties to the MOU).

This document needs close legal scrutiny as it seems that it aims to bypass the Crown Land and Community land plan of management procedures in contravention of the dedication of the existing reserve status of the
lands affected.

Furthermore it seems to combine the parties in a clandestine way into activities that may be against the public good.

Is this being done across the State? Many people are concerned in Newcastle.

I have requested that the General Manager of Newcastle Council provide me with the date when Council dealt with this matter and the details of the Council Resolution authorising the expenditure. ($150,000 for the Management Plan)

The draft document is dated the 19 November 2008 and documents a Memorandum of Understanding between NSW DEPARTMENT OF LANDS, HUNTER SURF LIFESAVING INCORPORATED AND NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL

DOWNLOAD THE MOU HERE (1 MB PDF) Direct link here:

Doug Lithgow
President of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc
Freeman of the City of Newcastle

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Newcastle City Council
City Hall Newcastle Friday, 08 January 2010

Dear Councillor
Bogey Hole & King Edward Park are part of one Land Parcel & are Heritage Items

Parks and Playgrounds Movement is pleased to note the excellent article by Cr John Tate Lord Mayor about the Bogey Hole and coast published in the Herald today 8/1/2010.

Cr Tate indicated that the Bogey Hole and the coast are owned by the Government and Council needs assistance in its management and that the Newcastle Council gave the Land & Property Management Authority $150,000 to prepare a land use plan.

Our coast is a scarce and priceless resource which is held in trust for the people of NSW. Elected Councillors and Members of Parliament as Trustees are expected to do all in their power to protect that scarce resource for the benefit of all people and tomorrow’s people.

In regard to the Bogey Hole it is an integral part of the existing King Edward Park Crown Land parcel. It was formerly part of the 87 acres of the 2000 acre Coal grant to the AA Company retained by the Crown in 1824. King Edward Park including the Bogey Hole was dedicated for Public Recreation in March 1894. The Park has an absolute water frontage and Newcastle Council has exercised care control and management for the whole area since dedication.

We are pleased that the collapsed cliff top fence is now being reinstated and we ask that the safety chain around the pool be also restored. Furthermore we request that rusted out picnic tables be replaced and the stairway to the pool be cleaned and drained at the side.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement believe that it is important that a clear working relationship be maintained between the Department of Lands (Now named NSW Land & Property Management Authority) and the Newcastle Council as in the past.

However we must point out that we are appalled and outraged that our Newcastle Council has allowed itself to be a silent party to a $300,000 dollar report aimed to alienate our scarce coastal lands and change their use against the interests of the public of Newcastle.

We also ask you to make public the details of the Newcastle fee simple land at Merewether that was transferred to the Minister for Lands by gift Aug 2008 in contravention of the covenant running with the land.

We Trust in your help to make sure that our distinctive coastal heritage is protected.
Yours sincerely.

Doug Lithgow Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc