Greens state conference backs Newcastle rail service and public ownership of port

Media release: 30 June 2013

This weekend’s state-wide gathering of Greens at Picton called for Newcastle’s Port to remain in public hands, intercity rail services to continue to the centre of Newcastle and reinvestment in the city to come from the revenue earned from the port, according to Newcastle Greens Councillor and federal candidate Michael Osborne.

Attached is a copy the resolution which was unanimously supported by delegates from Greens groups from around NSW at the party’s bimonthly meeting of its governing body.

“Having repeatedly denied that the port would be privatised, the O’Farrell government ambushed the community with a package that promised $340 million in reinvestment in the city and a light rail replacement for the train service to  central Newcastle,” Councillor Michael Osborne said.

“Closer examination reveals just how much of Treasurer Mike Baird’s announcement was little more than a  thought bubble.

“So far, the promised light rail is nothing but a shuttle service that will fail to deliver the O’Farrell government’s promise to improve public transport’s share of passengers into our CBD.

“It is likely that all of Newcastle’s share of the proceeds of the long term lease of the port will be squandered on cutting the train service. There will be almost nothing left over to build the light rail shuttle, let alone the other civic improvements Newcastle so desperately needs.

“Newcastle state Liberal MP Tim Owen is yet to explain how the light rail shuttle will be funded.

“Given his government’s track record, if the light rail shuttle ever happens, it will almost certainly be a public private partnership, with poor quality services and a timetable that puts profits ahead of passenger convenience.

“The Greens are committed to a new deal for Newcastle that reverses decades of neglect.

“The future our party wants for the CBD includes intercity and local rail services, and connections to the waterfront, new public spaces and other works funded by the revenue earned from a publicly owned port.

“Greens from across NSW supported our call for a new vision for a port that remains in public hands, so that it can make the transition out of coal and we can have a diversified range of exports.

“This is about protecting and growing long term jobs in the Hunter. The port has to serve as a lifeline to the global economy for goods manufactured by new clean green industries that will be the real source of employment growth.

“The O’Farrell government wants to lock Newcastle into growing traffic congestion, a CBD that is cut off from the rest of NSW and more coal trains spreading dust through our suburbs.

“The Newcastle Greens with the support of members from across NSW want a city that is clean, vibrant and accessible with a diversified port that delivers jobs for local people,” Councillor Osborne said.

For more information Contact Councillor Michael Osborne on 0439 442984

Unanimous Resolution of the Greens NSW State Delegates Conference

Picton, 29-30 June 2013

Urgent Proposal from Newcastle Greens responding to the NSW  Budget plan to privatise the Port of Newcastle, cut current CityRail services to Newcastle station and replace these with a light rail service funded from the port privatisation.

Part 1: That the Greens NSW

1.     Reiterates its support for

1.1.  Public ownership of critical infrastructure

1.2.  The retention and promotion of existing public infrastructure and services (including intercity rail), and a shift from private motor vehicle use to public and active transport modes

1.3.  Environmentally sustainable, ecologically viable, socially vibrant, people-centred, accessible and safe cities that are well provided with high quality public open spaces

2.     Recognises and supports public enthusiasm for the revitalisation of the Newcastle City Centre, and believes that this is best achieved by:

2.1.  retaining intercity, regional and suburban rail services to Newcastle Station, and

2.2.  continuing public ownership of the Newcastle Port, using the ongoing income stream generated by the Port to fund government revitalisation initiatives.

3.     Supports a rigorous investigation into the viability of a light rail network as a potential addition to Newcastle’s transport system, but not as a replacement for existing rail services and infrastructure.

4.     Opposes the privatisation of the Port of Newcastle (including through long term lease to a commercial operator) because, despite the failure of successive state governments to adequately plan for the future of the Port of Newcastle, it:

4.1.  will move responsibility for future planning and operation of the Port from the government to the private sector, compromising the ability of the local and regional community to influence future Port development, through the political process, toward more economically diverse and environmentally sustainable industries;

4.2.  may lock Newcastle into coal exports and the storage and handling of other dangerous and environmentally toxic goods by supplanting public interest objectives in the Port’s governance structures and processes with private profit objectives.

4.3.  is more likely to undermine options for future changes in the public interest, including economic diversification of the Port and the Hunter (such as a container terminal), the development of export-based high technology and other manufacturing industries, and infrastructure improvements such as the Mayfield portside rail line.

4.4.  has not been based on any publicly available economic appraisal or cash flow analysis.

4.5.  will remove a valuable ongoing source of public revenue that could be directed to projects such as the revitalisation of the city centre and regional economic diversification projects.

4.6.  will reduce transparency and public accountability in Port planning, development and operation.

5.     Opposes the proposal to terminate current intercity, regional and suburban rail services west of Newcastle station with the promise of a light rail replacement, because it:

5.1.  would waste scarce and valuable public funding to simply replace one mode of rail transport with the promise of another, while ignoring much more significant and cost-effective opportunities to revitalise the city and improve Newcastle’s public transport services and infrastructure.

5.2.  would force commuters travelling to and from Newcastle to interchange, reducing rail patronage, increasing private car use, and undermining the government’s own public transport targets for the Newcastle CBD.

5.3.  is a vague, poorly considered proposal of dubious viability, produced without local grassroots community input or publicly available details on crucial matters such as:

5.3.1.     economic and social equity impacts

5.3.2.     system design

5.3.3.     operations plan

5.3.4.     traffic impacts (including possible major road closures such as Railway Street and Beaumont Street level crossings)

5.3.5.     financial costs (capital and recurrent)

5.4.  will inhibit the pace of Newcastle’s revitalisation by removing or compromising transport services that would facilitate major revitalisation catalysts, such as the proposed CBD university campus and increased tourism.

6.     Objects in particular to the privatisation of public infrastructure (i.e., the port) to fund the removal of public services (i.e., the intercity, regional and suburban rail service to Newcastle station), and the manipulation of the genuine need for city revitalisation funding as a pretext for an ideological agenda to privatise public assets.

7.     Supports the Newcastle Greens in campaigning for a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable future for their city, and other groups campaigning for:

7.1.  the retention of CityRail services to Newcastle Station and improvements to the regional public transport system (such as Save Our Rail).

7.2.  continued public ownership and control of Newcastle port.

Part 2. That the Greens NSW call on the state government to:

1.     Abandon its proposals to privatise the Port of Newcastle and to cut current intercity, regional and suburban rail services west of Newcastle station,

2.     Make public all relevant documentation and cease the current secrecy associated with these decisions.

3.     Clarify the current status of the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy, given contradictory proposals in the recent budget plan.

4.     Act on the public petition from the local community tabled by Greens state parliamentarians calling for a Commission of Inquiry into the Port of Newcastle.

5.     Work with the local community to develop a more socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically responsible port and transport system, that will assist the city’s revitalisation while retaining valuable public assets and services.

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