A COMMITTEE set up to inquire into contentious Hunter planning decisions, including the truncation of Newcastle’s heavy rail, could potentially call former MPs Andrew Cornwell and Tim Owen as well as ministers to give evidence at public hearings.
The Greens’ motion to establish the committee in the wake of a corruption inquiry passed the NSW upper house on Tuesday, with backing from Labor, the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democratic Party, whose MLC Reverend Fred Nile will chair the inquiry.
The committee is expected to hold its first meeting within days.
As reported by the Newcastle Herald last week, it will examine the Whitebridge development plan in Lake Macquarie, Urbangrowth and GPT’s proposed tower development in the Newcastle city centre, government planning controls and the decision to terminate the rail line at Wickham and install light rail.
But minor amendments to Greens MP David Shoebridge’s original motion have removed reference to the Warkworth mine from the terms of the inquiry.
The changes have also removed reference to the role of Hunter state MPs in the government’s planning decisions, but Mr Shoebridge said it was possible they could still be called.
‘‘We will be guided by the evidence and submissions before us,’’ he said.
It will soon call for public submissions, and would probably hold some hearings in Newcastle, he said.
It comes in the wake of revelations of secret developer donations to Liberal Hunter state MPs, except for Maitland’s Robyn Parker.
‘‘People across the state have been following the trail of developer money, scandal and lies that has engulfed Newcastle and the Hunter in the past months and now we can look into what really happened behind closed doors,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
Lake Macquarie independent MP Greg Piper said he hoped the inquiry would restore community confidence in the planning decisions.
“The inquiry will take longer than the probity review I called for, but the important thing is that we will see a transparent evaluation of those key decisions and the factors that influenced them,” he said.
Geoff Evans, of the Newcastle Inner City Alliance, said the inquiry should provide transparency for the decisions.
Asked if ministers would be expected to appear, a spokesman for Premier Mike Baird said it was a matter for the committee who it called and the government remained ‘‘fully committed’’ to heavy rail truncation.
Independent Newcastle candidate Karen Howard, who supports the rail truncation, called on Tuesday for the government to release details of transport timetables for replacement services that would run as part of the government’s plans to truncate the rail from December 26.