Lower Hunter Regional Strategy
|About this Item||Subjects||Planning and Development; Regional Development; Hunter Region
||Speakers||Hunter Mr Jeff; Sartor Mr Frank
||Business||Questions Without Notice
Mr JEFF HUNTER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Planning. What is the Government doing to support economic growth in the Hunter region?
Mr FRANK SARTOR: I thank the honourable member for Lake Macquarie for his keen interest in the Hunter task force and for all the work he has been doing to assist us there. The Government's investment and jobs program rolls on. Since I became Minister for Planning I have approved $1.5 billion worth of development. Last Friday, along with Hunter members of Parliament, including the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, I was in Newcastle to launch the draft regional strategy for the Hunter. This strategy provides for growth of 125,000 over the next 25 years, including 50,000 jobs. Some 10,000 of those jobs are earmarked to be within Newcastle, 30,000 are earmarked to be in major centres at Charlestown, Glendale-Cardiff, Raymond Terrace, Maitland, Cessnock and Morisset, and at specialised employment centres at Newcastle airport, the Port of Newcastle, the University of Newcastle and John Hunter Hospital. There will also be significant new employment areas adjacent to the airport.
This strategy is out for public comment over the next 10 weeks. In addition, the Premier has appointed a special task force to advise him on a way forward for the future of rail services into the Newcastle central business district [CBD]. The task force met for the first time yesterday, and will consider a range of options, including the current Broadmeadow interchange, the feasibility of light rail, and options for terminating rail services at Civic station. The task force will report to the Premier by the end of February 2006. The Premier has committed $20 million to progressing the task force's work in 2006-07.
I also inform the House of two new significant approvals relating to the Hunter. The first is the Antiene coal loader—a $60-million coal loader by Macquarie Generation at Antiene in Muswellbrook. This will ensure the continued viability of the Bayswater and Liddell power stations by providing a facility to allow coal from north of the power stations to be delivered to the power stations. We must remember that Bayswater and Liddell power stations provide 40 per cent of the State's electricity. This morning I also approved a new $38 million coal mine at Boggabri near Gunnedah by the East Boggabri Joint Venture. That is expected to extract up to 12.4 million tonnes of coal by open cut mining, at a rate of 2 million tonnes per annum. There will be employment for 80 workers and a further 30 during the construction phase. It will generate export income of $1.1 billion for New South Wales. It is estimated that the mine will also produce about 250 indirect jobs.
Along with the coal loader and this project, the consent includes many stringent conditions to ensure adequate environmental performance. For example, there is a ban on the haulage of coal after 10.00 p.m. to ensure that local residents are not disturbed. There is also a biodiversity offset strategy to provide for the long-term conservation of 500 hectares of native vegetation to offset the loss of 78 hectares of open woodland vegetation. I can also inform the House, and the Hunter members in particular, that I rang the mayor of Newcastle this morning and advised him that I will be calling in two development sites. These include the Dan lands, which is a 50-hectare site. This was identified by Newcastle council in 1994 as suitable for residential development. More than 10 years ago the council identified this for residential development.
It is identified in the department's Thornton-Killingworth strategy as having residential potential since 2003. It is capable of accommodating 400 dwellings. In May council's planning staff recommended that rezoning of the site for residential development commence to avoid pressures on housing affordability through emerging land shortages in the Newcastle area. Council deferred consideration of the rezoning on the pretext that it needed to await finalisation of the Hunter strategy, notwithstanding the fact that the director general and I informed the council not to delay the project on the basis of the strategy. On 20 September council resolved to rezone the land but rescinded that decision two weeks later.
Let this be a warning for local government unable to address these critical development issues: it must get its house in order. It has been identified in the lower Hunter regional strategy as a new release area of fewer than 2,000 dwellings. As a result of that, I have decided to call that in. The other government project that I will be calling in is the site of the Royal Newcastle Hospital—a spectacular coastal site on the end of Newcastle's CBD which comprises an entire city block.
Health services ceased in late 2002. Disposal of the hospital will help finance health services in the Hunter. Landcom, on behalf of NSW Health, has prepared a master plan to develop the site for residential use, with a number of other uses as well. Capital investment value is more than $100 million with the potential to provide 450 dwellings. A master plan and draft DCP was submitted to Newcastle council on 22 December 2004. There has been substantial delay ever since and I have no alternative but to resolve the matter. I have spoken to the mayor as to whether or not the council wishes to do a lot of the assessment work and work closely with my department so that all the issues it wants addressed are addressed. However, I am determined that these matters need to be resolved. We cannot afford to drag on these projects for years. The State's investment is too important to leave it to idle chatter and petty squabbling.
Questions without notice concluded.