President’s Report – June 2011

PRESIDENTS 2011 ANNUAL REPORT – SOR NSW Inc – Joan Dawson

Once more we have had a busy year during which a new SOR document has emerged. In November 2010 our proposal, Western Transport Initiative (WesTrans) was launched by the Member for Wallsend, Sonia Hornery. This incorporates the Western Education Link Line (WELL) as well as planning for express “Clipper” bus routes. WesTrans would re-use existing rail corridors from Waratah to Glendale and would employ TramTrains to increase the frequency of rail services in the Lower Hunter.

Prior to the March 2011 state election SOR held transport forums to allow candidates to state their policies.  Those attending stated their support for retention of rail into Newcastle. Robyn Parker was the only Liberal candidate to attend one of our meetings; in Maitland she stated her continued support. The Liberal Party won Government of NSW and also won most of the Hunter Region seats.

Save Our Rail is therefore confronted with the need to continue and escalate the fight to retain and improve rail services into Newcastle, with newly elected Liberal Party MP, Tim Owen, publicly stating his intentions to close the heavy rail into Newcastle and pursue its replacement with “light rail”. The new Minister for the Hunter, the Hon Mike Gallacher, has not commented, but has indicated that he will be guided in his decisions by the local members of Parliament. The Member for Maitland, Robyn Parker, stated her support for retaining heavy rail into Newcastle, on ABC radio since the election.

Our future campaign activities begin tonight with a strategy meeting of people known to have an interest in planning and transport, drawn from the wider community. This will be followed by several similar meetings with hopefully a wider group of people of expertise to advise and assist us in the campaign.

SOR member, Paula Morrow has come forward with an idea for a competition, supported by sponsors,  to design a revitalised Newcastle with the rail line retained. There would be sections: a) professional, b) student, c) open. A substantial prize would encourage participation.

On August 15th 2011 Dungog will celebrate its Centenary of Rail and we plan to travel by train to enjoy a picnic in Jubilee Park, which is close to Dungog Railway Station.

As has become a tradition Our Town Model Show has invited SOR to be part of the exhibition held annually at the Newcastle Jockey Club at Broadmeadow Racecourse in September. This allows SOR to publicise our cause, to sell badges and to gather support.

I appreciate the support of all members of this executive group: Marilyn Eade gives  of her time and experience as Secretary with Janet Keegan ably recording the minutes.  Michael Micevski and Darrell Harris have put technical skills and initiative into working with me to produce policy documents, while Vice President, Kim Cross keeps me sane with logic and reason. Dallas Edwards is a constant representative for Maitland and Jan Sumner goes quietly in welcoming and registration duties at meetings. I thank George Paris for his tenacity and responding immediately whenever I call for feedback and ideas. The Steamfest helpers all deserve medals and Jan Crawford must be the champion of all badge and raffle ticket sellers!

I will miss our beautiful Sheena McCallum who has decided to relinquish the duties as Treasurer. Thank you for four years of keeping the books, Sheena.  I welcome the entry of Zane Alcorn onto the committee. Zane will bring a youthful perspective and has made a great impression with his professional graphics. Welcome also Graeme Tychsen and Bruce Williams from Dungog both of whom who will bring experience and passion to the Incorporated group.

The rail line is intact and the trains are still running to Newcastle, and that is because of the contribution of every member of Save Our Rail.  We need to consolidate our winning position by ensuring that our membership numbers are maintained; it is up to us all to bring creative new members along, so that the group retains its enthusiasm and continues to enhance its reputation for progressive transport initiatives.

Thank you all for holding the line!

Joan Dawson (President)