Bob Hawes was one of two directors of a company in 2009 that Hunter Development Corporation paid almost $50,000 to prepare a report for the state government, which recommended the removal of the Newcastle heavy rail line at Wickham.
This was before he became HDC general manager.
Mr Hawes owns a 50 per cent share of 1-9 Beresford Street, next to the rail corridor opposite Wickham train station, which he declared on the HDC official interests register.
However, the Greens have accused him of having a conflict of interest in the Newcastle rail cut issue because of his position as a senior public servant and the proximity of the Beresford Street property to the rail terminus and new transport interchange.
HDC’s recommendation to the government to cut the heavy rail line was based on The Newcastle City Centre Renewal Report, which was published in March, 2009.
According to HDC’s annual report for 2008-09, the government agency paid Fintraz Pty Ltd $48,706 for the Project Management City Centre Renewal Report.
Another firm, Parsons Brinkerhoff, conducted an intergrated transport review for the report, while Urbis contributed an economic impact report.
An Australian Securities and Investments Commission search of Fintraz Pty Ltd showed that Mr Hawes was one of two directors of the company when HDC engaged it for the report.
In its submission to the parliamentary committee investigating Hunter planning decisions, the state government noted the report was one of the key activities that led to the decision to cut the train line at Wickham.
The ASIC records cover the period from 1989, when Fintraz was established, to March, 2014.
They note that Fintraz’s principal place of business was 1-7 Beresford Street in 2009, when the city centre report was prepared.
Since 2010, the company’s principal place of business has been the same address listed on the document as being Mr Hawes’ address.
In a written statement, Mr Hawes told the Mercury this week: “In view of opening remarks made to witnesses by inquiry chair Fred Nile MLC, it would be imprudent for me to debate these matters through the media.”
Mr Hawes became HDC’s general manager in 2011.
He told the parliamentary committee that he had declared his ownership of the Beresford Street property when he took up the position.
Mr Hawes said he also declared his interest during a previous tenure working as a consultant for HDC.
Newcastle City Council approved a development application in 2010 for a nine-storey block of units to be built at the Beresford Stree site, but construction has not taken place.
Rail inquiry continues Friday
The second public hearing of the parliamentary committee investigating Hunter planning decisions will be held in Newcastle on Friday.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp will appear at the hearing, which will be held at Newcastle City Hall from 10am.
The University of Newcastle’s chief operating officer Nat McGregor and infrastructure and facilities services director Allan Tracey will also face the committee on Friday morning.
Colliers International Newcastle managing director Chris Chapman, Newcastle City councillor Therese Doyle and former federal MP for Newcastle Sharon Grierson are also listed to give evidence.
Thirty minutes has been scheduled in the afternoon for Hunter Business Chamber CEO Kristen Keegan and immediate past president of the chamber Richard Anicich to appear at the hearing.
Hunter Transport for Regional Development representative Alan Squire is expected to be the final witness called for the day.
Christian Democrat Reverend Fred Nile is chairing the multi-party committee, which was set up by Greens MLC David Shoebridge after corruption allegations were levelled at several state Liberal MPs in the Hunter earlier this year.
A third and final public hearing will be held in Sydney on Monday.
The committee will release its report on March 5.