Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Another Sad Planning Saga for Newcastle - Public Accountability is Needed

Newcastle was a leader in Town  Planning up until the December 1989 Earthquake and with the establishment of  the Honeysuckle Development Corporation with its 1993 approved scheme and Concept Masterplan. This created a non-transparent quasi planning authority in conflict with the statutory planning machinery of the State that ordinary people can see and comply with.

This conflict played havoc in the Newcastle the City Council when HDC wrongly called for expressions of interest for its first Central Honeysuckle development at Merewether Street Wharf before planning proposal had been officially gazetted.  Appallingly Newcastle councillors were blamed and their Consent Authority status for Central Honeysuckle was taken over by the Minister.  Later the HDC closed off and built out the Merewether Street View Corridor to the Harbour.

Deplorably the HDC has not had an appropriate ‘Approved Scheme’ as required by statute to guide the development of their gazetted Growth Centre.  Furthermore following their failure to vary their scheme to comply with the Regional Environmental Plan (Central Honeysuckle) made by  Minister Knowles in December 1997 they have been unrestrained without an approved public Scheme.  Outrageously a new HDC Scheme was only secretly given approval by Minister Hazzard in  September 2012 even though the Growth Centre was enlarged in 2008 to encompasses every Local Government area in the Hunter Region. The Parks Movement is on record that it had been asking that the HDC vary its scheme in a transparent way to bring it up-to-date and comply with the Growth Centres Act.

The recent collusion between the Minister for Planning and the Minister for Transport culminating in compulsory acquisition orders  issued the 17th and 19th December  implementing a device aimed to confuse the people of the region and bypass the NSW Parliament to close the Newcastle railway is unpardonable. It is in direct contravention of section 99A of the Transport Administration Act and transfers the land and rail infrastructure to Hunter Development Corporation who have never been an appropriate transport authority.

This sad planning saga can only be given clear direction by a comprehensive public planning commission of inquiry.

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