REGARDING RDA Hunter's plans for the region’s economy: The Herald might ask deputy chair John…
By MICHELLE HARRIS
Aug. 5, 2014, 10 p.
TWO prominent Hunter developers at the centre of NSW’s latest corruption inquiry pitched to redevelop the same Port of Newcastle site that Nathan Tinkler pursued for a coal-loader and is being investigated over.
Hilton Grugeon and Jeff McCloy, now lord mayor of Newcastle, together with Macquarie Bank, formed a consortium that proposed a multi-purpose shipping terminal for the former BHP steelworks site at Mayfield in 2007.
It was shortlisted among bids for the redevelopment of the state government-owned land, with proponents able to submit plans for part or the entire 150 hectares.
Mr Grugeon told the Newcastle Herald in 2007 that Newcastle could become a major car importing port and lure importers away from using Port Kembla, if the consortium’s bid was selected.
The pitch followed revelations that the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries wanted a $140 million import terminal built in Newcastle in 2006, but the plan was thwarted by the Labor government and Ports minister Joe Tripodi in favour of it being built at Port Kembla.
Cr McCloy and Mr Grugeon lost out to Buildev, which won the contract in late 2008 to redevelop 60 inland hectares at the steelworks site into an industrial park, amid government assurances that the state’s next container terminal would be built on the remaining harbourside land.
Evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption has suggested Mr Tinkler took an initial stake, which later grew to a controlling share, in Buildev soon after it gained the industrial park contract.
The corruption inquiry, Operation Spicer, will resume today and return to the alleged efforts of Mr Tinkler and Buildev directors Darren Williams and David Sharpe, including the use of secret political donations, to switch government support from containers to their coal-loader.
The inquiry’s terms of reference have been broadened to include Mr Tripodi’s alleged involvement, while still a backbencher, in an election-timed smear campaign against former Newcastle Labor MP Jodi McKay because she would not back the coal project.