State Member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorp has welcomed the NSW Auditor-General’s Report on the Newcastle Urban Transformation and Transport Program. The report backed Mr Crakanthorp’s assertions that the Government was secretive and taking the Newcastle community for granted as they projected their unplanned and uncosted projects on the city.
The report has validated all the issues that Mr Crakanthorp has raised since the Program began, although Minister Andrew Constance has already conceded that “he took a punt” on the Light Rail project last year.
Since the project began, Mr Crakanthorp has been calling for the business case to be made public. The A-G report concluded that indeed there was no analysis. The project was “decided and announced” before the business case was submitted leading to “underestimated costs of the project.”
This changing price tag was no surprise to the Newcastle MP who last year discovered the new Interchange, to be built on the former The Store site, had one with a cost range of $5 million - $40 million – dependent of “market sounding.”
Another issue that Mr Crakanthorp raised was the lack of community consultation, which has again been vindicated in today’s report. They found that the “community and industry consultation was held on which route the light rail should use, but the results of this were not made public.” This issue was of the utmost importance considering we were aware that prominent organisations were raising significant concerns on their planning.
The A-G also acknowledged that Transport for NSW deceptively claimed the Light Rail project would contribute to the broader economic development of Newcastle, citing unrelated investment decisions such as the Newcastle Courthouse development and University of Newcastle's city campus expansion were a direct result of the light rail investment. Two projects which were already well under way before the Light Rail project was even announced.
The A-G also acknowledged that Transport for NSW deceptively claimed that two large local projects were a direct result of investment in the Light Rail project. However, the Newcastle Courthouse and the development of the University of Newcastle’s city campus expansion were already well underway before the Light Rail was even announced.
The report simply summarises the truth that the overall benefits of the project contribute little to the program objectives. Astonishingly the A-G found that the Light Rail project would have little transport benefit for the city.
Quotes attributable to Member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorp
“The Newcastle taxpayers are the ones footing the bill for this project. And yet have been kept in the dark throughout the whole project.”
“This Government’s priorities are completely wrong. Throughout the whole process, they ignored what Novocastrians wanted, keeping the business case and reports under wraps so that nobody could scrutinise the project.”
“Minister Constance publicly said that he “took a punt” on Newcastle last year. How can we trust a Government that relies on estimates and not real facts. Newcastle deserves better.”
“What kind of a “transparent and accountable” Government keeps costings and reports away from the taxpayers who are funding their projects? They have taken Novocastrians for fools for too long. The Premier and her bumbling Transport Minister have got to go.”