Monday, November 29, 2010

Media Release: Time to rethink Hunter water strategy

Newcastle Greens
29 November 2010
Time to rethink Hunter water strategy
The state government and Hunter Water should use the rejection of Tillegra Dam as an opportunity to rethink the approach to water security in the Hunter, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“It’s wonderful news for the Hunter’s farming communities, water customers and environment that the state government has ditched the dam, but a major opportunity will be lost if the Corporation now automatically reverts to the option of an expensive and environmentally damaging desalination plant,” Mr Sutton said.
“During the debate over Tillegra Dam, Hunter Water consistently held the threat of a desalination plant over the heads of environmentalists who campaigned against the dam, arguing that if Tillegra did not proceed, a desalination plant was inevitable.
“Desalination plants are enormously expensive, consume vast amounts of energy, and present significant environmental risks.
“It would be a major lost opportunity if the state government and Hunter Water did not now engage with the wider Hunter community to develop a new sustainable water resource plan with more ambitious water efficiency and demand reduction targets, and more creative and diverse water supply strategies.
“The Department of Planning determination on Tillegra criticised Hunter Water’s needs analysis because it was ‘limited to a small range of options’, adding that ‘a more common approach is to consider a portfolio or suite of options rather than individual options’ [DG’s Assessment Report, p.27].
“It’s now time for Hunter Water to engage with the Hunter community to consider this broader range of options,” Mr Sutton said.
“Water policy is set to play a huge role in future elections in Australia, as Victoria’s Desalination Project proved in the weekend’s Victorian state election.
“In the Hunter, Greens parliamentarians and members have worked closely with local communities and environmentalists throughout the Tillegra Dam campaign, and will continue to campaign for sustainable water management.
“Sustainable water security will only be delivered if strategies have broad community support and are based on genuine ecological sustainability principles,” Mr Sutton said.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tillegra Dam rejected!

What wonderful news today, that the Kenneally government has finally dropped the Tillegra Dam proposal.

The decision is s a testimony to the hard work and expertise of all involved in the grassroots community campaign against the dam: the No Tillegra Dam group, The Wilderness Society, and The Greens (especially Greens MLC John Kaye), who have all worked tirelessly on this issue for a number of years now.

What an excellent hiatus this now creates to look more carefully at how the Hunter can shift to a more sustainable approach to water security.

Let's hope there isn't a reflexive resort to desalination - the threat that was always held over the heads of environmentalists involved in the Tillegra campaign.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Media Release: Community transport plan a breath of fresh air

Newcastle Greens
John Sutton
 Newcastle candidate
26 November 2010
Community transport plan a breath of fresh air
The Greens today welcomed the public launch of Save Our Rail’s WesTrans proposal as a breath of fresh air in the debate on the future of Newcastle’s public transport system.
The Save Our Rail plan will be officially launched in Wallsend this afternoon.
“Transport policy proposals are often dominated by well resourced vested interest lobby groups, or by government agencies with development agendas, so it’s very refreshing to see a committed community-based group, motivated purely by a desire for a better public transport system, make such a positive contribution,” The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said.
 “Whilst the proposals in the Save Our Rail study will need to be rigorously examined and costed, they offer a set of ideas that – if implemented - would make a serious start to getting people out of their cars and on to more sustainable modes of transport.
“Lately, we’ve been barraged with double-speak from the NSW Labor government about a ‘rail-based solution’ for Newcastle while they’ve been releasing proposals to cut the city’s rail infrastructure, and we’ve had so much negativity from the local anti-rail campaign against the Newcastle rail line.
“What Save Our Rail is proposing is a genuine rail-based solution, with a significant expansion of current inter-city rail services, and new light rail services that complement heavy rail and bus services.
“The plan looks at different transport modes (including light rail) in the context of the city’s larger transport system and needs.
“This plan is a serious attempt to show how we can begin the shift from our current reliance on private motor vehicles, toward more sustainable transport, such as cycling, rail and buses.
“Save Our Rail is showing the way here, and I urge the state government to treat their proposals seriously,” Mr Sutton said.
Copies of Save Our Rail’s plan can be found on the group’s website at:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Media Release: Sutton calls on McKay to declare stance on off-shore gas drilling

Newcastle Greens
25 November 2010
Sutton calls on McKay to declare stance on off-shore gas drilling
The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today called on the Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, to follow the lead of central coast Labor parliamentarians and oppose gas drilling off the coast of Newcastle.
“This is a great opportunity for Ms McKay to prove that she isn’t always the puppet of the Sydney-based Labor powerbrokers who recently succeeded in protecting her from a preselection ballot of local Labor Party members,” Mr Sutton said.
“Unlike Central Coast Labor federal parliamentarians, who spoke out against off-shore drilling during the recent federal election, Ms McKay hasn’t yet expressed any view about the recent approval of Advent Energy’s gas exploration venture, just 55 km off Newcastle, despite the serious risks it presents to precious coastal resources and fishing.
“Ms McKay has made much of her plan to commercialise Newcastle’s public coastal resources, but has said nothing about a proposal that has been secretly approved by the state Labor government, and that will operate with very little regulatory oversight,” Mr Sutton said.
 “Yesterday’s damning Montara Commission report into Australia’s largest oil spill in the Northern Territory criticised a similar lack of adequate regulation by the Northern Territory Department of Resources.
““Aside from being the local member, Ms McKay has Ministerial responsibility for Tourism and for the Hunter, so it’s crucial that she stands up for the tourism industry and for the regional community on this issue.
“Does Ms McKay and the state Labor government believe that drilling rigs off Newcastle will add to our tourism potential, or revitalise the region’s coastal environment?”
“It’s a chance for Ms McKay to show that she doesn’t automatically take the side of vested interests, as she has with her support for the unlimited expansion of the coal industry, and the proposal to cut the Newcastle rail line.”
Mr Sutton said he would be attending tomorrow’s community protest against the gas exploration project at 10am on the steps of Newcastle City Hall, and called on Ms McKay to come along and state her position on the issue.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Media Release: Labor powerbrokers snub Newcastle members

Newcastle Greens
24 November 2010
Labor powerbrokers snub Newcastle members

Today’s decision by Labor’s head office to protect Newcastle incumbent, Jodi McKay, from a local preselection shows that nothing has changed in NSW Labor since Ms McKay was imposed on Newcastle four years ago by the party’s Sydney-based powerbrokers, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“However Sydney Labor might try to spin it, the fingerprints of the sinister “leadership group”, identified by the former Labor state Minister, Rod Cavalier, in his recent book Power Crisis, as the real powerbrokers in NSW Labor preselections, are all over this decision.
“In the Epilogue to his book, Mr Cavalier asks “Does party membership matter?” in the modern Labor Party, observing that “a leadership group has presumed to determine preselections for any seat that Labor has a chance of winning wherever the local membership might select a candidate unacceptable to that group”.
“Those same powerbrokers have now been cavalier in stomping on the right of Newcastle Labor members to nominate and preselect their local candidate because they obviously know that genuine rank-and-file Labor members in Newcastle aren’t as impressed by Ms McKay as they are,” Mr Sutton said.
“This same leadership group is now rewarding Ms McKay for dutifully toeing the Labor line on electricity privatisation, Tillegra Dam, and the unimpeded expansion of the coal industry; for supporting local vested interests on issues such as cutting the Newcastle rail line; and for being such a consistent apologist for Labor’s many failures in public transport and planning.
“This is a slap in the face for any Labor member in Newcastle who thought they still mattered in the modern Labor Party, beyond their practical usefulness in raising money, handing out how to vote cards on election day, and applauding when the leadership group says ‘clap’,” Mr Sutton said.
“It’s no wonder so many Labor members and voters are now turning to The Greens, whose local candidates are preselected by local Greens members,” Mr Sutton said.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Media Release: Business Chamber caught out on gas line

Newcastle Greens
23 November, 2010
Business Chamber caught out on gas line
The Hunter Business Chamber was today caught out by The Greens for blatantly plagiarising a state government industry development website in a public statement in support of a gas industry in the Hunter.
The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said that a HBC media release titled “Gas is a viable future energy source” (dated 22 November 2010) was almost entirely a word-for-word lift from the Industry and Investment NSW website (, with the stolen words being attributed to HBC CEO Peter Shinnick.
A support document, titled “Member Information Bulletin, Hunter Gas Industry”, also steals entire slabs of text straight from the government website, without any acknowledgement of the source, Mr Sutton said.
“When I was a university lecturer, a piece of work submitted with this level of plagiarism would have been immediately failed, with a requirement for it to be done again properly,” Mr Sutton said.
“That’s what the HBC needs to do here.
“It’s not good enough on such an important issue, involving such huge economic, environmental and social stakes, for the HBC to simply cut and paste its material from a government website, and present it as its own.
“This is a huge embarrassment for the Chamber, and highly insulting to the local communities who have legitimate concerns about the potential impact of gas exploration and mining, and to the National Farmers Federation, who have expressed similar concerns, and have joined with The Greens in calling for a moratorium on further gas exploration in the Hunter.
“Concerns raised revolve primarily around the practice of “fracking”, which involves chemically fracturing subterranean rock formations to allow gas extraction, potentially contaminating aquifers and land, and creating air pollution and waste.
“If the Chamber wants to be taken seriously on this issue, they can’t just play the role of a ventriloquist dummy for a government website. They need to listen to people in the affected communities, and do their own research and thinking on gas mining.
“I hope that Mr Shinnick and other Chamber board members attend the showing of Gasland in Newcastle next Tuesday (30 November, at 5:45pm at Greater Union Cinemas in King St), which depicts the harrowing story of one person’s engagement with the gas mining industry in the United States.
“This is emerging as a major issue for everyone in NSW, as the residents of St Peters, in inner west Sydney, discovered recently, when they found out that Macquarie Energy had been granted approval for exploratory drilling there,” Mr Sutton said.

Labor lost on Newcastle transport

This was submitted as an op-ed piece for the Newcastle Herald

The two transport documents for Newcastle’s city centre released by the state Labor government last week are the latest evidence of how far NSW Labor has lost its way on public transport and urban revitalisation in this city.
The long awaited scoping study for cutting the Newcastle rail line and building a new Wickham terminus confirms that it would cost between $375 and $505 million, not including a long list of identified but excluded matters.
The most significant cost exclusion (not even on the study’s list) is the cost of any system to replace the lost rail service. No costings for any interchange facilities for passengers forced to get off at Wickham, as suggested in the discredited Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) report, nor for any light rail system, as suggested by the NSW Premier earlier this year.
This is a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to cut public transport infrastructure, services and patronage.
The other document, the Transport Management and Access Plan (TMAP) outlines uncosted public transport proposals that – if introduced - would still fall well short of the state government’s own public transport target for Newcastle.
It’s a plan that aims for failure.
In the accompanying media release, the NSW Minister for Transport , John Robertson, said that the state government remains “focussed on a rail based solution for Newcastle”. The only rail based proposal in either document is the Wickham terminus and the cutting of the Newcastle rail line.
The TMAP proposes axing the highly successful fare-free zone that applies to every public bus in the CBD area, and replacing it with a city loop service that will circle the periphery of the city.
Even if this service proves operationally and financially viable, it would mean that passengers forced off the trains terminating at Wickham and wanting to use one of the current bus services into the city would have to walk from the railway terminus to Hunter St, and pay another fare for a bus that is currently free.
The study doesn’t outline any special services that will make this forced interchange any easier for passengers with disabilities, prams, luggage, surfboards or other bulky items.
The scoping study cites estimates that cutting the rail line would reduce local rail patronage by between 7.4% and 23.7% a year.
The extra cars that this will put on the road will increase traffic congestion on Stewart Avenue, which will also receive the spill created by the closure of the Railway St level crossing.
This is a plan for a car-clogged city.
The traffic impact of the study’s proposal to close the Beaumont St level crossing is entirely unexplored.
The potential commercial impact of cutting Beaumont St in this way (including the option of a Beaumont St overpass) is also unexplored. No wonder the Beaumont St traders are up in arms, because this looks like a plan to kill the goose that has layed the golden egg of one of Newcastle’s most successful commercial strips.
This is well on the way to being Newcastle’s version of Sydney’s Metro debacle.
Let’s get to a genuine rail based solution for Newcastle, and build a public transport system that provides the basis for a sustainable revitalisation of our citycentre, and has a real chance of achieving vital federal funding assistance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Media Release: Labor's Newcastle transport plan aims to fail, say Greens

Newcastle Greens
18 November 2010
Labor’s Newcastle transport plan aims to fail, say Greens
The state Labor government’s recently released transport plan for the Newcastle city centre aims to fail, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“The government’s plan acknowledges that the proposals in it won’t achieve their own target for increasing public transport use in Newcastle,” Mr Sutton said.
“The Newcastle City Centre Transport Management and Accessibility Plan (TMAP) released this week along with the government’s scoping study for cutting the Newcastle rail line states that the initiatives outlined in the plan will achieve a peak period public transport mode share of only 15.7% by 2016 – a tiny increase on the current 14.1%, and well short of the 20% target set for 2016 in Labor’s own State Plan,” he said.
“This week’s Newcastle transport plan shows that the state government won’t even get close to its 2016 public transport target for the city a decade and a half later (by 2031), when it states that the peak period public transport share for Newcastle will reach only 16.5%.
“Labor’s Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, is still wasting precious time and public money pushing the discredited developer-led campaign to cut the Newcastle rail line, whilst she and this dysfunctional Labor government mouth empty clich├ęs about a ‘rail based solution’”.
“This is worse than fiddling while the city burns,” Mr Sutton said.
“This whole sorry episode is now well on its way to becoming Newcastle’s version of Sydney’s Metro fiasco, which eventually cost taxpayers $500million to achieve nothing.
“It was Sydney Labor who preselected Ms McKay to represent Labor in Newcastle, and she has clearly learned what she knows about public transport from the same stable.
“Newcastle’s public transport system has gone backwards under Ms McKay’s watch, and Labor’s latest plan to cut the city’s rail line (which she initiated) will take Newcastle even further from the government’s own transport policy destination.
“Ms McKay and the state Labor government should cut their losses now, and ditch this hair-brained scheme to cut the city’s rail infrastructure and services, so Newcastle can get on with developing a credible rail-based revitalisation strategy that could attract much needed federal funding,” Mr Sutton said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Media Release: Greens say time to stop silly rail cut plan

Newcastle Greens
16 November 2010
Greens say time to stop silly rail cut plan
The state government’s investigation into the feasibility and costs of cutting the Newcastle rail line and building a terminus at Wickham confirmed that cutting the Newcastle rail line would waste hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton said today.
“This report demonstrates that it would cost up to $505million of public money to lose rail patronage by cutting a major part of the city’s most sustainable transport infrastructure, without even putting anything in its place,” Mr Sutton said.
“Since the Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, first thumbed her nose at her party’s policy to keep the Newcastle rail line and threw her support behind the anti-rail push by developers, The Greens have warned that this would undermine the city’s ability to access crucial federal infrastructure and revitalisation funding.
“A proposal to cut an inner-city rail line will be laughed out of town by any government funding body that is serious about urban revitalisation and sustainable public transport.
“In the light of this report, I call on the Member for Newcastle to drop – once and for all – the silly notion of cutting the Newcastle rail line, and instead develop a rail-based revitalisation plan that achieves the dual objectives of revitalising the Newcastle CBD and improving the city’s public transport system.
 “Instead of presiding over yet another public transport debacle, the state Labor government should be using this opportunity to rethink their whole approach to this issue.”
Mr Sutton said that the implications of the scoping study’s proposal to remove rail-crossings at Railway St and Beaumont St were entirely unexplored in the study itself, and could produce traffic chaos and simply shift the cross-rail connectivity issue westward.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Media Release: Greens welcome Herald transport study

Newcastle Greens
10 November 2010
Greens welcome Herald transport study
The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today welcomed the Newcastle Herald’s announcement that it is commissioning an independent public transport study for the Hunter.
“Provided this turns out to be a genuinely independent study, which gives priority to the public interest over powerful vested interests, it could provide the necessary circuit-breaker out of the current paralysis in sensible public transport policy in the Hunter,” Mr Sutton said.
“I congratulate the Newcastle Herald for taking this initiative, and stepping in where the state government has so clearly failed to act in the public interest.
“The discussion paper for the study (available on the Herald website) provides a generally sound outline of the current state of public transport in the Hunter, and the range of challenges that we face.
“Given the Newcastle Herald’s own previous strong support for the anti-rail campaign by vested interests in Newcastle, the credibility of this study will depend on the extent to which it remains genuinely independent,” Mr Sutton said.
“As things currently stand, the advisory panel for the study appears to include enough members with a record of genuine commitment to sustainable public transport to provide the basis for optimism about the study’s independence and integrity.
“The fact that this study will be modelled on a similar highly successful initiative by the Sydney Morning Herald is also very encouraging.
“One unfortunate and significant omission from the Herald discussion paper (and associated terms of reference for the study) is the lack of any clear set of principles or criteria against which ideas and proposals for improving public transport will be evaluated.
“The discussion paper doesn’t mention the extent to which public transport planning and decisions should be based on social equity or ecological sustainability considerations, and doesn’t refer to key public policy challenges for transport planning, such as climate change and peak oil.
“It’s important that a study such as this is clear and transparent about the principles upon which its public policy approach is based, and I hope this deficiency is addressed at an early stage in the study process,” Mr Sutton said.
“The Greens have already identified public transport as a key local state election campaign issue, and we strongly endorse the Herald’s discussion paper’s recognition of the urgency and importance of addressing this issue and of the need to shift from private motor vehicle use to public transport, and its support for a major boost in spending on public transport in the Hunter.
“The Herald initiative offers an excellent opportunity for the community to come together to formulate a public transport plan that has a realistic chance of achieving major funding from Infrastructure Australia, and I strongly encourage the Newcastle community to engage in this process in good faith, and with the best interests of the community at heart,” Mr Sutton said.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Media Release: Greens call on state government to keep Sunflower growing

Media Release Media Release Media Release Media Release
Newcastle Greens
4 November 2010
John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle)
Greens call on state government to keep Sunflower growing
The Greens today called on the state government to find urgent funding to keep a key regional community-based mental health service from closing.
The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said that the Sunflower Centre, based in Union St, Newcastle, would have to close by the end of the month unless it received $25,000.
 “Anyone who has tried to access mental health services in the Hunter can attest that this part of our health and community services system is in crisis.
“The Sunflower Centre is Newcastle’s only remaining one-stop shop for information, support, advocacy and referral, and we just can’t afford to lose any more such services,” Mr Sutton said.
“It would be a disgraceful state of affairs if the state government couldn’t find the relative pittance necessary to keep an essential local mental health facility like this afloat, when it seems to be able to find hollow logs with much larger amounts for funding such things as fireworks and visits by international football celebrities,” Mr Sutton said.
“The Sunflower Centre operates a community development program that includes a large network of support groups, a telephone outreach service, a house call service, a drop-in centre, a resource and information centre, and a school education program, and accommodates a community development worker who services the entire Hunter region.
“These kinds of community-based facilities do so much with so little – they run on the smell of an oily rag, with the help of committed volunteers, and have to scrape for money from various program grants.
“If they don’t get $25,000 in the next few weeks, they will have to close their Union St premises by 30 November, and shut down many of their current services.
“At a time when the community and national figures such as the Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, are pressing for increased government support for mental health, the closure of a local facility such as this for the want of such a small amount of funding would send a disturbing signal about the lack of government will to respond to this key issue,” Mr Sutton said.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Media Release: Hatton right to reject Tate as genuine independent, say Greens

Newcastle Greens
2 November 2010
Hatton right to reject Tate as genuine independent, say Greens
The rejection of Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate as part of the new independent network established by anti-corruption independent John Hatton exposes serious questions about Clr Tate’s claim to be a genuine independent candidate for the state seat of Newcastle, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“Mr Hatton is right to rule out endorsing Clr Tate as a genuinely independent candidate,” Mr Sutton said.
During a public meeting at Newcastle City Hall last night, Mr Hatton questioned Clr Tate’s record on accepting and disclosing political donations from developers and the alcohol industry, and his record on disclosing political donations as a councillor involved in development decisions.
At the meeting, Clr Tate defended his acceptance of such political donations on the grounds that he was “forced” to accept them in order to match the expenditure of the Labor candidate for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, and dismissed his censure by Newcastle Council for failing to adequately disclose political donations as “politically motivated.”
“Clr Tate was unable to deny the key facts of Mr Hatton’s allegations: that he had accepted substantial donations from developers and the alcohol industry, and that he had been censured by Newcastle council for failing to adequately disclose political donations on the basis of a recommendation by a legally qualified independent reviewer,” Mr Sutton said.
“It was clear from Clr Tate’s aggressive response to Mr Hatton last night that he doesn’t understand that there’s more to being a genuine independent than just ticking the required boxes on electoral funding disclosure forms, and that a true independent has to be free of the corrupting stench of political donations from vested interests.
“Clr Tate had a reputation as a genuine progressive community-based independent when I worked with him as a Newcastle councillor in the 1990s,” Mr Sutton said.
“However, Clr Tate has done a complete about-face since his election as Lord Mayor in 1999.
“Clr Tate now heads the most secretive, anti-democratic council in Newcastle’s recent history, and actively campaigns to unlock valuable Foreshore real estate in support of the developer-funded push to cut the city’s rail line.
“Mr Hatton understands, in a way that Clr Tate doesn’t, that ordinary people in the Newcastle community are entitled to ask whether Clr Tate’s stance on these issues has been influenced by the political donations he has received.
“Like other Greens candidates in the NSW election, I won’t be accepting any donations from any vested interests, and I’ll be declaring all donations over $50 as soon as possible on our public website, so that interested voters will know before election day exactly where every dollar spent in my election campaign comes from.
“I call on Clr Tate and any other candidate who wants to show that they are free from the corrupting influence of political donations from vested interests to do likewise,” Mr Sutton said.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Media Release: McKay’s city planning vision: government by developers, for developers

Newcastle Greens
1 November 2010
McKay’s city planning vision: government by developers, for developers
The Member for Newcastle Jodi McKay’s announcement on Friday about a new state urban renewal policy that will apply to the Newcastle CBD demonstrates everything that is wrong with the approach of the current NSW Labor government to planning in Newcastle and NSW, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“Ms McKay chose to announce the new planning policy at the general meeting of the Hunter Business Chamber,” Mr Sutton said.
“Comments reported in the media by the Hunter Regional Director of the Property Council, Kristen Keegan, indicated that she was familiar with details of the proposed plan.
“But, whilst these business and development bodies have been given privileged access to information about a state government planning instrument that the Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, states has not even been published yet, the general community will apparently be locked out of the process until the formal exhibition period,” Mr Sutton said.
“Planning policies such as this are specifically designed to override local planning controls such as Newcastle Council’s Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan, and to shift decisions about developments in the Newcastle CBD from local elected representatives accountable to the Newcastle community, to Sydney-based and appointed decision-makers such as the Minister for Planning.
“Once again, Ms McKay has made it abundantly clear who she and NSW Labor regards as inside and outside the tent in relation to development decisions.
“True to form, this revitalisation plan seems to have been developed with and for developers, and will be rubber stamped in Macquarie Street by NSW Labor powerbrokers acting as the ciphers and thralls of developers,” Mr Sutton said.
“The real discussion and decisions on this policy have obviously already occurred behind closed doors, and it will now go through the usual token, tick-the-box public consultation process that will be mostly ignored by NSW Labor.
“The Greens would welcome any plan that seriously addresses the need for urban renewal in Newcastle,” Mr Sutton said.
“However, Ms McKay and the NSW Labor government need to learn from past mistakes, and accept that the city belongs to the whole community, not just property developers.
“This is a time to re-establish local democracy in planning, and to bring the Newcastle community together, not to exacerbate old divisions or to reinforce the established culture of NSW Labor’s cosy relationship with vested interests, Mr Sutton said.