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A FRACTURE has formed between two key stakeholders in the Newcastle light rail, with the Property Council delivering a stinging rebuke to the Hunter Business Chamber for a “misleading” suggestion that both groups back delaying the project.
The Business Chamber said this week in a submission to the state government it had “confirmed the support” of several groups for its key positions on the light rail.
The document – which raised the prospect of delaying the light rail over the government’s “deficient” assessment of its impact – listed the Property Council as a supporter.
But on Friday, the Property Council’s Hunter director Andrew Fletcher distanced himself from the document.
“It’s misleading for the Hunter Business Chamber to suggest the Property Council and other regional organisations are 100 per cent behind their submission to the NSW government,” Mr Fletcher told the Newcastle Herald.
“Newcastle has suffered decades of delay – we don’t need any more.”
In the first public split between the two groups on the light rail, Mr Fletcher said promoting construction delays while further assessments were made would be “misguided”.
REBUKE: Property Council Hunter chairman Andrew Fletcher has asked the Hunter Business Chamber to "correct" claims that he supports its light rail submission.
Any delays would hurt small businesses most by holding back job creation, Mr Fletcher said, and have a negative “domino effect” on investors and the agency tasked with operating the light rail, Transport for Newcastle.
“Several companies that will bid to deliver light rail and a new, integrated transport network for Newcastle have already established themselves in the city based on the government’s construction timetable,” he said.
“Every month of delay will add millions in costs and mean the community has to wait longer for a modern public transport system.”
The Business Chamber’s call to consider delaying the light rail was reinforced this week by outgoing chief executive Kristen Keegan, who vacated the job on Wednesday.
Mr Fletcher said he had asked the chamber’s acting chief executive Anita Hugo to correct the record and send an updated version of the submission to anyone who received the original.
Ms Hugo told the Herald the chamber had never suggested other groups were “100 per cent behind” its submission, and that it worked with other light rail stakeholders “in good faith”.
“In a conversation with the Property Council [on Thursday] I was told that while they supported the [submission’s] key themes, they felt that it implied they supported it in its entirety and would like a revised version submitted,” Ms Hugo said.
“The chamber is happy to do this.”
Work on the light rail is due to start next year.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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