THE HUNTER’S WISH LIST – Newcastle Herald

LIGHT RAIL PLAN

Finish light rail project in Newcastle and establish a long-term plan to expand the network.

COVERED COAL WAGONS

Introduce new legislation requiring coal wagons travelling through residential areas to be covered or contained.

CONTAINER QUESTIONS

Come clean on the secretive deal that protects a privatised Port Botany against competition from a Newcastle container terminal.

FREIGHT RAIL BYPASS

Build the freight rail bypass in the Fassifern to Hexham corridor as planned. This will also prevent an enormous amount of rail passing through Adamstown.

GLENDALE INTERCHANGE

Build a new rail station at Glendale and make firm commitments to the Munibung Road-Pennant Street bridge project that will link Cardiff, Glendale and Boolaroo.

DREDGING

Long-term commitments to funding dredging operations in Swansea Channel and Myall River.

TOXIC TRUTH FUTURE FUND

A commitment to setting up a future fund for the ongoing clean-up of the former Boolaroo lead smelter’s toxic legacy.

MAITLAND HOSPITAL

Get on with funding and constructing a new major hospital at Maitland and determine the future of the existing Maitland Hospital. Upgrade Tomaree, Cessnock and Kurri hospitals.

MEDOWIE HIGH SCHOOL

Fund construction of a new high school at Medowie.

THE WISH LIST FOR HUNTER ROADS

A new link between the M1 at Beresfield and Pacific Highway at Raymond Terrace – a 15-kilometre dual carriageway that bypasses Heatherbrae and eliminates the Beresfield bottleneck.

Complete planning and funding of Singleton bypass.

Complete planning of the Muswellbrook bypass (with federal funding).

Upgrade Main Road 217 between Morisset and Booragul, with priority to the Toronto section.

Widen the single-lane sections of Hillsborough Road between Warners Bay and Charlestown.

Upgrade Cessnock Road, Maitland’s main route to the M1.

Fix the bottleneck on City Road at Merewether Heights.

Continue the upgrade of Nelson Bay Road, with priority given to sections near the airport, Bobs Farm and Anna Bay.

LEVEE PROJECT

A commitment to funding stage two of The Levee project in Maitland.

GROUTING

Establish a fund that would have the old mines beneath Newcastle’s CBD fully grouted. Money would be recovered from developers through a levy on their developments.

NEWCASTLE ART GALLERY

A commitment to funding the expansion of Newcastle Art Gallery.

POLICE STATIONS

An immediate start on upgrades to police stations at Morisset, Toronto and Cessnock.

 

Challenge for the Premier

MUCH as the NSW Labor opposition might attack the government for planning to sell the state’s power transmission assets, most voters probably sense that the ALP would do the same, if it ever got the chance.

That being the case, Hunter people might look favourably on the Coalition’s sales pitch, since it does at least contain a promise to spend a defined share of the sales proceeds in the region.

Premier Mike Baird has announced that $273 million from the sale of the ‘‘poles and wires’’ will be spent on improvements to Hunter roads.

That might seem a small dividend, given the government might get as much as $20 billion from the privatisation. But it seems certain more will follow – to some parts of the Hunter, at least – with the government suggesting that about $6 billion of the proceeds could go to regional areas. Note that Newcastle won’t be counted as ‘‘regional’’ for this purpose. Note also that by some tallies, the government has already committed more than the hoped-for $20 billion, mostly for big projects in Sydney.

Still, the Coalition has made an effort to spend money in regional NSW. From the Resources for Regions scheme, the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund and the allocation of an admittedly disappointing portion from the proceeds of the Port of Newcastle lease, hundreds of millions of dollars have managed to find their way out of Sydney.

For Newcastle, the big money is tied up with the light rail project that is supposed to be replacing the controversially truncated heavy rail line.

This light rail – still years away even under ideal conditions – is being criticised from several quarters. The latest allegation is that the Premier’s Department over-ruled the state’s transport experts in insisting the light rail be routed down Hunter Street instead of using the former heavy rail corridor.

It would be good to see the costbenefit analysis that led to this decision, and to be reassured that it was about more than merely selling off the rail corridor land for development.

Yes, the Coalition has done some good for the Hunter, but the good has not been unalloyed. The alleged ‘‘secret’’ deal preventing Newcastle from having a container terminal is a case in point, and the decision not to help with the city’s art gallery redevelopment is another.

Nor will Hunter people easily forget the appalling revelations from last year’s Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings, which cast such a dismal light on both sides of state politics and left many voters feeling betrayed and let down by their MPs.

The Herald has handed Mr Baird a regional wish-list to consider, with some important projects that should be funded by a government keen to prove its bona fides in the Hunter.

Over to you, Mr Premier.