Planning our way out of a brown paper bag

Paper Bag CashTHE latest revelations in the Independent Commission Against Corruption have highlighted the urgent need to go back to first principles to get good planning back on track in Newcastle.

This is especially so in light of the Planning Assessment Commission hearing that is taking place this week in Newcastle for the Port Waratah Coal Services T4 coal-loader proposal.

In ICAC, we have heard that it was “brown paper bag” planning that allegedly tried to kill off a container terminal for Newcastle in favour of a coal-loader proposed by billionaire Nathan Tinkler.

We have heard that government MPs may have been less focused on the needs of the community than they should have been.

The government has been selling off our assets for quick returns, selling out the community and choosing the interests of multinational corporations over the interests of local residents.

Newcastle deserves better than this.

We should have local representatives who stand up for the community, stand up for what really matters and stand up for good planning in our region.

Good planning principles should be strategic and long-term, value your competitive advantage and natural assets, outline a vision for a better society and include the community in the process.

Newcastle just doesn’t need another coal-loader. T4 will lock out job-rich opportunities such as a container terminal, lock in increasing global carbon pollution and put all our eggs in the coal basket.

A good planning system would see innovation, investment and jobs that build on our strengths.

We should be building on the important role that the CSIRO and the University of Newcastle play in the research and development of the new technologies that will allow for a clean energy future.

We should be building on the rail connections from the port to the rest of the country, including planning for the Mayfield portside rail line from the Sandgate junction to service the former BHP site.

That rail line would significantly reduce freight movements past our suburbs, service a container terminal and allow Newcastle to lead the way as the national research, export and manufacturing centre for clean energy and sustainable industries.

This is good planning, but it is lost on the current Department of Planning, who many in the community think should be renamed the Department for Lobbying and Approvals.

A good planning system integrates the community and outlines a vision for a better society.

Michael Osborne is a Newcastle Greens councillor.

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