Port Sale Bad News for Newcastle

Newcastle Port sale a bad deal for NSW and a disaster for Newcastle

What are you thinking Barry?

Paying for Newcastle’s urban renewal by selling a revenue generating asset (Newcastle port) to remove another revenue generating asset (the city’s rail line) to (maybe, if there’s anything left) build an asset (light rail) that will costs more to run and will undoubtedly generate less revenue than the current line. Is this the best your party of business egged on by a developer and conservative dominated Newcastle Council can come up with?

What do you, Tim and Jeff take us for?

Planning Panel

Newcastle Urban Renewal Expert Planning Panel

Your plan to sell off Newcastle Port has all the hallmarks of a “back of the envelope” calculation.

On the Government’s own sparse figures, the money to be allocated to Newcastle from the sale will be $340m. Funny, that’s almost exactly the estimated cost of tearing up the rail line from Wickham to Newcastle and building an interchange. This leaves approximately $0m to build a light rail, not to mention funding urban renewal. For that sort of money we will be lucky to get a toy ride-on train.

Newcastle Light Rail

Artist’s impression of proposed new Newcastle light rail

Even Planning Minister Brad Hazzard didn’t think much of a light rail plan saying that in the short term, light rail wasn’t sustainable option and that it wouldn’t be economically sustainable – until recently.

So where will the money to fund the Newcastle Urban Strategy come from?

I don’t usually subscribe to conspiracy theories – I think our current pollies are too dumb to organise a consistent conspiracy – but you have to wonder who’s going to benefit from this plan. Certainly not rail commuters. Is it the business interests that will get a prime piece of revenue generating infrastructure unfettered by planning and community oversight?

Maybe, when it’s realised a few years down the track that installing a light rail system is not feasible will the government then start eyeing of a prime strip of land unencumbered by mine subsidence problems to again top up the coffers.

Jeff is already setting up this agenda by saying that the light rail should go down Hunter Street. Then the developer lobby would be free to get their hands on the rail corridor. Then we’ll really see the harbour separated from the city when there’s a strip of high rise development between them.

The Port’s current profit is running at about $72m/year. The $340m allocated by your government represents about 5 years worth of profit while the other 94 years worth will go into the State Government’s coffers. The lion’s share is a windfall to whoever takes out the lease. And some people criticise the Greens for unrealistic economic policies.

If NewcastlePort is sold, the local community will lose all say in what goes on in the Port precinct.

With similar sales at Port Kembla and Port Botany the purchases had the deal sweetened by planning consent being waived for any development up to $100M according the Michael Daley (interviewed by Jill Emberson on 1233, 20th June). In other words, under the same terms the owners could build a chemical waste dump on Kooragang Island without even bothering to let anyone know as long as the development came in under the $100M limit.

With dwindling market for export coal in the future as more enlightened governments such as China and the USA switch to renewable energy sources let’s take a look at what sort of developments might go ahead to keep the Port running economically:

  • Expansion of the Orica chemical processing site. Look out Stockton (and most of Newcastle) if there’s a fire!
  • Construction of a Coal Seam Gas export facility to facilitate the destruction of our agricultural industries and environmental integrity.
  • Expansion of coal loading facilities and infrastructure as the coal industry desperately try to dig up and ship out as much as they can before the rest of the world wakes up to the damage that’s being done.

And that’s just what’s currently being talked about. Imagine what other horrors they might be able to come up with in the next 99 years! And we know the community won’t be consulted about what’s in store in the future if the sale goes through because decisions will be made behind closed doors.

And when it hits the fan Barry, you won’t be around – will you?

Ah well, why should we worry?

In 99 years we’ll all be dead.

Unfortunately, if this plan goes ahead, so might Newcastle.

 

Graham Whittall

Newcastle Greens

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