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THE man fronting an inquiry into the state government’s handling of contentious high-rise and rail decisions in Newcastle has joined calls to delay the planned halt to city train services until his inquiry’s findings are handed down.
Reverend Fred Nile, who will chair the committee running the inquiry, said the government’s move to stop rail services from Boxing Day was being rushed and was ‘‘ignoring the vast amount of concern in the community’’ generated by recent hearings before the ICAC.
Arriving in Newcastle on Thursday night ahead of a two-day visit, Rev Nile told the Herald that he had been ‘‘pressured’’ by the state government to oppose the inquiry, and that he hoped to release an interim report on his committee’s findings before Christmas.
‘‘I know the state government was very unhappy there was going to be an inquiry - I had a lot of pressure put on me to not support it - but I said I think there’s so much concern in the community about it, I couldn’t oppose it.’’
Rev Nile expressed his own concern about the rail issue, along with concerns about planning issues in Newcastle’s CBD and in Lake Macquarie, but said his committee would act independently.
‘‘I’ve had a lot of people contact me with their concerns and I am sure we will be flooded by people who want to have a say,’’ he said.
The comments will likely anger the state government and those who have supported its urban renewal strategy in Newcastle. That’s mainly because the inquiry is not about whether or not the state government’s decisions were right, but whether or not they were influenced in any way by illegal political donors or lobbyists.
‘‘But we want to hear from people from all sides,’’ Rev Nile said. ‘‘We will take all submissions and if we think some people have some new or interesting evidence we’ll invite them to appear before the committee.’’
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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