Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Hunter Gladys Berejiklian won’t visit Maitland this week but in a backflip will meet with Save Our Rail on Thursday.
Save Our Rail had been excluded from a roundtable discussion in Newcastle with other stakeholders and community groups until the Mercury questioned the apparent snub.
“Save Our Rail will be invited to the forum,” a spokesman for the Premier confirmed late Friday afternoon.
“The Premier [Mike Baird] and the Minister for the Hunter Gladys Berejiklian will join with stakeholders and community groups in Newcastle [this] week to discuss a range issues facing the Hunter region.”
Save Our Rail and its members had made fruitless requests for a meeting with Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian since the April cabinet reshuffle, when she was handed the Hunter portfolio in addition to transport.
Ms Berejiklian issued a brief statement on Friday when the Mercury asked why she had not met with Save Our Rail in the seven months since April.
“I have met with Save Our Rail on numerous occasions,” she said.
“The NSW government has worked with the community every step of the way on plans to completely transform area by truncating the heavy rail line and introducing light rail to connect the city centre with the foreshore, and we will continue to do so.”
SOR collected more than 11,000 signatures, which helped to force debate on the truncation and a parliamentary inquiry is ongoing into the decision to cut the rail line at Wickham.
In the meantime SOR requests for a meeting with Mr Baird were unheeded until Friday.
“He’s totally ignored our letters and the letters of our members,” president Joan Dawson said.
“There’s a lot of unrest about this decision [to cut the rail line].”
Mrs Dawson said SOR had been unfairly painted as rabble rousers in sections of the media, which she thought might explain a reluctance for the Premier to meet with them.
“We’re not a ratbag organisation and there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be reasonable in a meeting with them,” she said.
“I have always been a reasonable person.
“For eight months we were in consultation with the Hunter Business Chamber.”
Mr Baird remained non-committal on when he might return to Maitland.
“The Premier last visited Maitland in July and he looks forward to returning in the near future,” a spokesman said.