NSW Labor will seek support from the minor parties in the upper house ahead of a crucial vote on the future of Newcastle’s heavy rail line.
In Parliament yesterday, the state government tabled changes to the Transport Administration Act, which has stopped it from tearing up the train line into Newcastle CBD.
The government needs the support of the Christian Democrats, Animal Justice, and Shooters and Fishers parties to change the law and make the removal of the rail infrastructure legal.
The surprise move comes despite a pending High Court appeal outcome over the court’s December ruling that the government needed an Act of Parliament to remove the train tracks.
“I have met with the shadow minister for transport and we are meeting with upper house MPs to try to ensure they are going to vote for the community when it goes to the upper house next week,” Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison told the Mercury.
“Because of the focus on Newcastle where the government is trying to blackmail the community by saying they will not proceed with revitalisation unless they can remove the rail line, the upper house MPs are not getting the full story.
“We want to give them a clearer view of the people who live in the other electorates in the region who rely on the rail line to work, see doctors, go to court, to university in the future.”
It would normally take five days for the legislation to reach a vote in the upper house after the government introduced it in Parliament.
However, the government can choose to fast-track the process.
The truncation has been a controversial issue in some parts of the Hunter outside Newcastle, including Maitland, where many commuters have expressed concern that the change from trains to light rail would make it more difficult to access the city.
But supporters of the government’s plan say it will be a vital part of the revitalisation of Newcastle.
At a planning estimates committee meeting last week, Planning Minister Rob Stokes defended Urban Growth’s public consultation after criticism from Labor about the four proposed options for the heavy rail corridor.
“Obviously there are polarised views in the community about the truncation of the rail network,” Mr Stokes said.
“I think it is absolutely appropriate that Urban Growth are engaged in a process of consultation and looking at options that include looking at the development opportunities within the rail corridor.”