THE Hunter Development Corporation is poised to ‘‘compulsorily acquire’’ the Newcastle rail corridor as part of what a judge has described as an unfair government ‘‘device’’ intended to circumvent laws requiring an Act of Parliament before the rail line is removed, as reported in the Newcastle Herald.
Under the elaborate arrangements, which came to light in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, overhead wiring, boom gates and other rail infrastructure will be transferred by owner RailCorp to HDC on Boxing Day, the same day contractors are scheduled to start work on the heavy rail’s truncation in the first phase of the government’s $460million city transport project.
HDC will later take ownership of the land using its powers under compulsory acquisition laws.
The government has kept quiet on the deals up until now, despite the court hearing that Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian has already directed RailCorp to agree to the terms of the compulsory acquisition and the sales agreement for the infrastructure was signed on December 19.
But whether the measures are legal remains up in the air, with Justice Michael Adams expected to deliver his judgment on Wednesday as to whether the government should have secured first an Act of Parliament to endorse its plans.
The Save Our Rail group has sought an injunction to prevent the government starting the works from Friday, arguing it lacks the legal authority.
Reflecting on the government’s arrangements, Justice Adams said they appeared ‘‘a bit unfair’’ given ordinary people would look at the Transport Administration Act and believe Parliament would need to approve the closure of a rail line.
‘‘One can understand why people are disquieted by it because it does have the appearance of a device … [although] it may be a perfectly legal device,’’ Justice Adams said before adjourning the Sydney hearing.
The matter will resume at 10am on Wednesday.