Newcastle Rail Services
28th May 2015
Mr GREG PIPER: My question is directed to the Premier. Given strong public support for Newcastle's light rail to run down the existing rail corridor, will the Premier consider reverting to this more practical and economical option and divert the $100 million in savings to fully fund the much-needed Lake Macquarie transport interchange?
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Balmain will come to order.
Mr MIKE BAIRD: I thank the member for his question. I say to the Opposition: That is how you ask a question. It is a sensible question that connects his local community with a Government policy. It is in stark contrast to questions asked by the Opposition. This is just a tip for the Opposition and for the member for Cessnock: The member for Lake Macquarie is looking for creative ways to finance infrastructure in his electorate and he is looking at recycling. That is a good thing to do. Members should look in the capital program for opportunities to benefit their communities. We have consulted widely with the Newcastle community on the light rail realignment.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Newcastle will cease interjecting. I call the member for Newcastle to order for the first time.
Mr MIKE BAIRD: As if I am going to answer this question and miss the member for Newcastle. We have also consulted with the community on where the transport interchange will be. We have consulted consistently and comprehensively. We are doing this because we believe in the city of Newcastle. For too long—over 20 years—there was a lot of dithering. The former member for Newcastle, to her great credit, said that we should be revitalising Newcastle and that we should truncate the rail line, and she welcomed with open arms the light rail proposal. One can learn from a former member for Newcastle; it is great to have a couple of members here who represent or have represented Newcastle. I say to the current member for Newcastle—he may be yawning but it is a very interesting development and he will like this—Urban Growth and Newcastle council have just signed a memorandum of understanding.
The member for Newcastle is on the council and he has just signed a memorandum of understanding with Urban Growth. They acknowledge that the objectives of the program are to reconnect the city to the waterfront and, wait for it—he is the great opponent—deliver a new light rail system. He has come on board; he is taking lessons from the Leader of the Opposition that you say one thing one day and do another thing the next day. He has done it; he is on his way to greatness. Thank goodness he has finally done it because we are going to revitalise that city. We make no apologies for getting on with revitalising the city. Newcastle has waited for too long. I have received some correspondence on this that I will share with the House. It explains why we are so passionate about this. This is correspondence from someone called Andrew Lane. He says:
Thank you for all you have done for our city. Unfortunately we will be stuck with Mr Crakanthorp for a bit longer however Mike I ask that you keep your commitments to Newcastle as I know you will.
That is exactly what we are going to do. Other correspondence says:
Congrats on your election win! PLEASE don't abandon your plans for my city. There is so much potential and the political landscape IS changing…just too slowly for my liking. I am truly inspired by your government's tenacity and foresight. Once again thank you and please don't give up on Newcastle.
That is what people are saying to us again and again. But there is more. Another correspondent said:
I am pleading with you to continue your revitalisation of Newcastle, in particular, the removal of the under used and ugly heavy rail.
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