City’s future plotted by ‘shadow government’

The Newcastle Herald reports that, according to newly released documents, a ‘‘Master Planning Group’’ composed of developers, property investors, elected representatives and public servants held meetings to plot the future of Newcastle.

The documents appear to show that members of the group included then lord mayor Jeff McCloy, city general manager Ken Gouldthorp, Hunter Development Corporation chairman Paul Broad, Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes and representatives of government development corporation UrbanGrowth and private investment giant GPT.

The group met regularly through 2013. Cutting the heavy rail line seemed to be a major priority, with other issues high on its agenda including ways to reuse the “redundant” rail corridor.

It emerged from the inquiry that Mr Hawes owns a 7per cent share in 780 Hunter Street (west [sic] of Stewart Avenue) and a 50per cent share in 1-9 Beresford Street (across Beresford Lane from the other building in which he holds an interest, and adjacent to the current rail line).

With the removal of the heavy rail, the value of these properties is likely to rise substantially.

Mr Hawes said he could not comment, but at the inquiry’s public hearing last Friday week he denied having any conflict and stated that he had declared his property interests as required.

“The property appears to me to be fairly C-grade, but if the rail is removed from behind it I can see the value would likely soar,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Also released by the inquiry was a 2012 letter from developer Jeff McCloy – after he made controversial donations to Liberal candidates in Hunter seats but before his election as lord mayor – to planning minister Brad Hazzard.

A draft reply for the minister to send to Mr McCloy was forwarded with a covering letter under the name of Hunter Development Corporation general manager Mr Hawes, advising the minister that the government was being lobbied by landowners, developers and investors to cut the rail, and that the corporation  supported cutting the rail west of Stewart Avenue.

Read the full article and view the documents at the Newcastle Herald.