McCloy throws support behind mining towns

JEFF McCLOYTHE Hunter’s mining towns got an unexpected friend yesterday when Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy said he’d support them getting a share of the proceeds from the lease of Newcastle port.

‘‘I feel for them up there,’’ Cr McCloy said. ‘‘The port is just the end of the [coal chain] but we all know where it starts, and they need money up the valley for roads and all sorts of infrastructure.’’

The lord mayor said he was ‘‘generally happy’’ with the state government’s promise to pump $340million from the port lease earnings into Newcastle’s urban renewal, but said that if the lease price rose above the anticipated $700million as expected, a proportion of that should come back into the Hunter Valley, specifically into the Muswellbrook and Singleton areas.

Cr McCloy successfully committed Newcastle council to supporting the ongoing revitalisation of the city centre at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Under his motion, the council formally backed the rejuvenation strategy and ‘‘catalyst projects’’ such as the GPT-UrbanGrowth development.

But it also backed the state government’s lease of the port and the controversial fourth coal-loader project (T4) which angered several colleagues.

‘‘This is not about good policy, it’s about good politics,’’ Greens Cr Michael Osborne said.

‘‘Leasing the port is dumb financially and dumb strategically – no good businessman would give away 100 years of earnings for the price of 10, but that’s what we’re doing.

‘‘And as for T4, the proponent’s own report says it won’t create a single operational job. Surveys in some suburbs around the port show that up to 90per cent of residents oppose T4, so this decision just shows contempt for the community.’’

Labor councillor Nuatali Nelmes said every cent of the money raised through the port’s lease should go to the Hunter.

‘‘As it stands it’s a total waste of money spending $340million on three light rail stops,’’ she said.

Cr Nelmes has already lodged a rescission motion against the decision, saying debate ‘‘had been gagged’’, but the lord mayor was unfazed.

‘‘The place is going good and jobs are important,’’ Cr McCloy said.

‘‘And it’s also important we get out there and signal our support to the projects and the people who are driving this renewal in our city.’’

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