Labor’s Newcastle mine subsidence task force too little, too late

Monday, 24 January, 2011

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today branded Labor’s announcement of a state government task force to address mine subsidence in the Newcastle area as a piece of pre-election window dressing.

“Mine subsidence has been identified as a major issue confronting urban development and city revitalisation in Newcastle for many years, and Labor (including the Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay) has done nothing about it all that time,” Mr Sutton said.

“Newcastle CBD Taskforce reports commissioned in 2008 by the Hunter Development Corporation (for which Ms McKay is the responsible Minister) identified that stakeholder forums had nominated mine subsidence in Newcastle’s CBD as “a particular area where coordination and expediency was desperately needed” and “as a “fundamental infrastructure” issue that presented “a significant challenge to investment” [see 2008 Newcastle CBD Taskforce reports on HDC website].

“Despite this, the HDC’s final Newcastle City Centre Renewal Report in 2009 failed to propose any strategy to deal with this issue, and Ms McKay was silent about it then.

“The Greens (via Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne) pushed successfully for Newcastle Council to establish a Mine Subsidence Working Group in 2009.

“Now, with yesterday’s belated announcement of a state government taskforce, Ms McKay has the audacity to claim that mine subsidence in Newcastle is an issue that “no one else is prepared to tackle”, when the real issue for voters is why Ms McKay and NSW Labor have taken so long to respond to a problem that Ms McKay admits herself has been known for a long time, and was identified as such years ago by the agency for which she is the responsible Minister,” Mr Sutton said.

“Like so many other of Ms McKay’s recent announcements, yesterday’s announcement of a task force to address this issue has more to do with covering up years of Labor incompetence and inaction in the lead up to the March state election, and to defer any further commitment until after that election.

“With a change of government likely in March, the future of the task force announced yesterday is highly uncertain.

“If Ms McKay and NSW Labor had acted more quickly on this instead of wasting time on doomed fancies (such as cutting the Newcastle rail line), we could have already had a strategy, an appropriate planning framework, and a successful federal funding application for addressing mine subsidence in Newcastle,” Mr Sutton said.

For further information or comment, please contact John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle), on 4969 2668 or 0411 154 004.

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