6:41: That's the end of tonight's inquiry and the public forum.
Rev Nile has signed off by encouraging those present to catch the train to Sydney for the third hearing on November 24.
That's the end of the blog, we hope you've enjoyed following along.
And don't forget to get Saturday's Herald for Ian Kirkwood's news, views and analysis on today's proceedings.
6:39: Patricia Gillard, from Community Too Inc, said the Newcastle organisation wanted accurate information from travellers on the Hunter and the Newcastle @ Central Coast lines.
"This would provide evidence for the current inquiry that focused on the everyday needs and activities of people who use and rely on train services, Ms Gillard said.
"An online survey was designed and conducted during the first three weeks of October this year and 733 people participated.
"This survey was designed to promote accuse information about the trains people caught regularly, why they travelled, how cuts would affect them. This isn't their opinions. This is their lives."
Ms Gillard said 650 people took the time to respond in detail.
"The strongest findings were about the extra travel times, up to two hours a day, and how it disrupted family life," she said.
"Buses were rejected and seen as a menace in the city, many said they would switch to cars, for bike riders it was yet another obstacle, younger people felt less safe, elderly and disabled people said they would travel less often into Newcastle and the service that was most vital and most regularly used was the Hunter line into Newcastle.
"There were people who supported the cuts to train services, just under a third. Their reasons were shorter and largely concerned with the reconnection of the CBD to the harbour and fur advantages that light rail would bring."
6:27: One of our final speakers wants to discuss a survey done by Community Too Inc on the possibility of cutting the rail line.
The report submitted from that research can be viewed here.
6:19: We are nearly out of time here at Newcastle City Hall.
Our last few speakers have discussed issues of corruption, development and the rail.
The general feel is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of disillusion.
Our last speaker wanted to go as far as calling for a Royal Commission on all types of planning.
6:13: Tony Brown led a campaign against alcohol-related violence in the Newcastle CBD that contributed to widespread restrictions in licensed venues.
"Sadly Newcastle has become a Wild West town run by cowboys and it's tough luck for the metaphorical Indians," he said.
"My submission is from the metaphorical Indians perspective, the people of Newcastle are honest, intelligent, ordinary people who have a sense and knowledge for what is right and wrong and who know when the wool is being pulled over their eyes.
"And we are a group of people whose intelligence has been continually insulted by the people with industrial connections in Newcastle."
He finished with a rousing speech about democracy.
"We need to defend democracy, the idea of one person, one vote, governed by the people, for the people, not governed by the developers for the developers."
5:55: The majority of speakers who have discussed the rail tonight have been in favour of leaving it where it is.
Jan Davis cited a Newcastle Herald poll on whether or not the rail line should be cut, saying two thirds had said she wanted to see it remain.
Advocate for alcohol harm reduction Tony Brown is up next.
5:51: Brian Kelly is next up, he says his main topic of concern is around the level of community consultation and community involvement around rail and other key planning issues affecting the city.
It's an issue that many speakers have raised during tonight's forum.
He criticised the consultation provided around the changes to the city's planning guidelines.
"In that process we've seen government, local government and state government, failing in their responsibility to adhere to the reasonable guidelines about community involvement and participation," Mr Kelly said.
"What particularly concerns me is that we've not heard a clear enunciation of the social, economic, environmental and heritage impacts. "In fact, what concerns me is that perceived economic benefits trumps all other implications."
5:25: Our next speaker, Paul Rippon, is proving very popular with the audience, especially with his views about the Crowne Plaza building in Honeysuckle.
"We are in danger of having decisions made now that the residents of Newcastle will pay the price for in decades to come," he says.
"I want to be sure before some of these irreversible decisions are made that they are indeed the right decisions and I am certainly not convinced of that at the moment.
"Speaking about the rail line, the argument that keeps getting put forward ... is the need to connect the harbour to the city."
"That just seems to be put out as a self-evident truth without any real elaboration. I think there is already a connection to the harbour, certainly there is a pedestrian connection to the harbour. There is not necessarily a good connection by car, so why take a rail line away that is going to put more cars in there, increase traffic, increase congestion. "I must say if connectivity to the harbour is such an important thing then I hope to see a proposal to pull down the Crowne Plaza."
His final point received rapturous applause.
5:12: Our next, Tony Lawler, questions whether it was financially viably to cut the heavy rail, given the light rail has not been fully costed.
He bursts out into song with a few bars of Big Yellow Taxi by Counting Crows.
"Don't it always seem to go," he sings
"That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone
"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
"This is exactly what our former Lord Mayor had planned for our rail line.
"Please we implore you to do whatever you can to please save this vital state significant infrastructure.
"This was paid for by many of our past generations, one generation of greedy developers should not be able to profiter at the expense of the city."
He believes any service taken away "is usually replaced by an inferior service" and said it was an "absolute disgrace" that the government hadn't taken a heritage impact statement on the Newcastle Railway Station building.
4:42: Rev Nile is introducing the public forum. As well as the pre-registered speakers, there is a waiting list of speakers that the committee will get to if they have time.
Rev Nile reminds people to focus on the issues of the inquiry and avoid personal attacks.
Francis Young is first up.
He wants to speak about plans to truncate the rail line.
He says a survey commissioned on the issue used leading questions and targeted people who didn't use the rail line.
He suggests suspending the rail truncation project and seeking submissions on installing a tunnel.
He also wants to increase the number of train services.
4:30: Sam Rigney here taking over from Matt Carr, who has done an incredible job blogging today's inquiry.
The public forum is about to get started and we've got 50 people in here ready to share their views on local planning issues.
Each speaker is limited to five minutes. The forum, for pre-registered speakers only, should run until about 6.30pm.
► Stay tuned for updates, news and views from the public forum from 4.30pm.
4:16: Mr Gordon is wrapping up his evidence.
"We have always been on the public record that the removal of the rail is a key outcome to revitalising the Newcastle CBD," he says.
But Mr Gordon says there were several reasons, other than the stalling of the truncation, that prompted GPT to put the project on hold, including the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
Ms Voltz asked Mr Gordon if "there hadn't been a government announcement of the truncation of the line then why did you take a risk on purchasing the property?"
He responded that he wasn't at GPT in 2007.
Mr Gordon has now completed his evidence and the public hearing has concluded.
The public forum will begin at 4.30pm.
4.00: Mr Gordon is being asked by Ms Voltz about what GPT's original vision for the Newcastle CBD site was.
He says it was going to be a "predominantly retail development" with about 60,000 square metres of retail space.
Mr Gordon said that number has been reduced to 15,000 to 2000 square metres under the current Newcastle CBD project.
Ms Voltz wants to know why the GPT saw the truncation of the rail line so important.
"We undertook research and commissioned a piece from The Hornery Institute," he says.
"They look at what really drives successful urban regeneration and they said to reconnect the CBD with the waterfront was a key outcome."
Pressed further, Mr Gordon says the research: "identified a general restriction for people trying to transfer from one side of the rail line to the other".
A large selection of those present are not convinced.
3.45: Rev Nile Fred Nile said the Premier had responded to a request to postpone the Boxing Day truncation works, stating that it would cost roughly $220,000 per week to delay.
Professor Dick said that figure was likely due to contracts entered into on the project and said it was vital the right solution was found.
Angus Gordon from GPT is the final witness for the day. He is giving evidence now.
3.40: Professor Dick said growing up in Melbourne, he regularly crossed train and tram lines as a pedestrian.
"It is much, much easier to do these things at the end of a rail line by slowing trains down to make the most of what is a wonderful experience coming into Newcastle," Professor Dick said.
"I think there's a lot of things we can do where instead of exchanging insults we just sat down together."
"I do not think that will be so traumatic for everyone."
David Shoebridge asked Professor Dick to offer his professional opinion on the cost-benefit analysis, which the lecturer dubbed "a shoddy piece of work".
"It's not only the question of the university, there are also quite a number of other distortions and omissions," Professor Dick said.
3.35: Professor Dick said he would try to race through his concerns with planning processes, citing access to senior politicians and the increased role of UrbanGrowth.
"I do believe that UrbanGrowth is becoming a juggernaut in NSW that is bringing back all the worst features of planning in the 1950s and 60s," Professor Dick said.
Planning and infrastructure also worked much better as separate portfolios, Professor Dick said, and allowed for more robust assessment.
"No minister, however brilliant, can be both the left hand and the right hand, the left ear and the right ear," he said.
Dr Boyd said other options, including sinking the rail line into a tunnel or putting road bridges over the tracks, were still feasible but lacked cost-benefit details.
"The most logical would be to sink the rail line east of Railway Street," Dr Boyd said.
3.30: Rev Nile has questioned Professor Dick about truncating the rail at Woodville Junction.
"While there was an argument to keep the line as it was, there was also a good argument for creating an inter-city multi-modal terminus at Woodville."
"It is impossible to assess those other options without rigorous studies."
"We believe that is the only way to ensure good transport decisions are being made."
Liberal committee member Greg Pearce said there had been a "broad range" of information put to the forum, including allusions to major problems and allegations of dysfunction, but the focus remained on government processes.
He implored Professor Dick to outline specific flaws in the processes of making the decisions.
"A lot of this other stuff is interesting and conspiracy theories are good but this is what we're actually trying to address," Mr Pearce said.
3.20: Dr Boyd told Ms Voltz options including road bridges had been raised but failed to win support.
"During this process, it's only been about truncating the rail line," Dr Boyd said.
Ms Voltz questioned whether the other options had been given serious examination, and why they had been dismissed.
"After 20 years on the commuter council, the best answer is that this is Newcastle," Dr. Boyd said.
Mr Sutton said he believed none of the alternatives had been costed.
Professor Dick said it made "no sense in transport planning terms" to pull the railway back to a Wickham terminus while increasing demand with an inner city university campus and courts.
"We don't have to pay as heavy a price," Professor Dick said.
"Everyone is half-right but we can't settle these things on the basis of opinion."
3.10: John Sutton said the hearing so far had delivered an "outpouring of the frustration about what has been going on ".
He said reports relied ones supporting the truncation included "hundreds of millions of dollars of errors".
"Most importantly we've seen information and data that is demonstrably wrong," Mr Sutton said.
"There's a lack of responsibility and accountability that is still evident today."
"The problems with the process that have culminated in the decision to cut the Newcastle rail line is egregious."
3.10: Dr Graham Boyd has backed Alan Squire's assertion that meetings to discuss the transport network and light rail routes were restricted to specific plans.
Dr Boyd said using the existing corridor was off the cards when discussing the light rail route, while the truncation was off the table at a broader forum in transport.
Mr. Boyd said running light rail down Hunter Street past Scott Street was an "unmitigated disaster".
"There seems to be no rationale for replacing expensive infrastructure with even more expensive infrastructure," Dr Boyd said.
"We are very disappointed that throughout this process commuters and users of public transport have not been held in regard."
3.05: The trio are acting as a panel. Mr Sutton is an academic and a former Newcastle councillor.
Professor Dick blamed "weak bureaucratic processes and a lack of checks and balances" for the city's woes, saying there was a lack of transparency.
"What we have in Newcastle unfortunately is poor decision-making," he said.
"Newcastle is the only city I know where urban renewal will begin by making transport worst [and] removing heritage."
"I do believe as a professional removing the rail line without due evidence would be negligent and would set a deplorable precedent."
3.00: Mr Squire is asked to compare his membership to the Hunter Business Chamber. He says there are 900 supporters, "some of whom are businesses". When asked to clarify whether most were individuals or businesses, Mr Squire said they were people who responded to the group's website.
Greg Pearce asked for clarification on how many members were active, to which Mr Squire replied about four.
Mr Squire is stepping down.
University of Melbourne Business and Economics Professor Howard Dick, Hunter Commuter Council's Dr Graham Boyd and John Sutton are next.
2.55: Mr Squire told the inquiry a public servant (Greg Donnelly) told him the light rail route was selected "because that's what Mr McCloy wanted".
Greg Donnelly asked him to repeat the comment, which he alleged were made at Wickham's Croatian Bowling Club, and clarified it involved a public servant.
Mr Squire stood by his comments, saying they were made in response to his criticisms of the Hunter Street light rail route.
"I thought it was a curious thing to say but that's what he said," Mr Squire confirmed.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge asked Mr Squire to clarify where and when those conversations occurred for the committee within seven days.
2.50: Mr Squire seized on the topic of the cost-benefit, adding he believed both Hunter Development Corporation and UrbanGrowth had stakes in the rail line's removal that motivated them to seek its removal.
"It seems there are lots of conflicts of interest," Mr Squire said.
"There is no cost-benefit whatsoever."
"The decision to run light rail down Hunter Street was not based on evidence that would withstand professional scrutiny."
Mr Squires said it was pure "waste" to remove the rail line to replace it on Hunter Street.
"It's there, it can do the job - all you've got to do is put a light rail vehicle on [the existing corridor] and you have the answer," he said.
"This decision has not been impartial, it doesn't appear to be taking in the views of the community."
Mr Squire said he had faced "Hopkins' choice" at numerous forums where only alternate routes for light rail were discussed, never using the heavy rail line.
2.40: Mr Squire said the surveys Ms Keegan referenced included no-one from Lake Macquarie or Maitland, which he said "slanted it a certain way".
"It's not simply a matter of business suffering, there are all sorts of businesses," Mr Squire said.
Mr Squire invited the inquiry to consider that the government had refused to release cost-benefit analyses.
"It's significant they haven't done that," he said.
He suggested that indicated the analyses either did not exist or contradicted the decision to proceed with the truncation.
"We are in a position now where the only cost-benefit analysis is that one which has been discredited."
"That's just symptomatic of how the planning processes have gone wrong here."
2:36: Liberal committee member Greg Pearce asked how the council had worked in light of Cr Therese Doyle's comments the council had ceased to function.
"An alternative view may be that those councillors were asleep at the wheel," Mr Pearce said.
Mr Anicich said he had received no complaints about how the council functioned in the past two years.
Kristen Keegan said the previous hearing had been provided "biased and wrong" indications the Hunter Valley Research Foundation was one-sided in some surveys.
"If you know anything at all about the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, you know it is a highly regarded independent research organisation," Ms Keegan said.
"To provide that slur about that research organisation is entirely wrong."
Hunter Transport for Regional Development's Alan Squire is now testifying.
2.30: Mr Shoebridge accused Mr Anicich of "saying black is white" before his time asking questions expired. The pair clashed over whether the cost-benefit analysis' inclusion of the university was valid following earlier evidence. Mr Anicich maintained that given the project was proceeding, it was irrelevant.
Chairman Fred Nile asked Mr Anicich how he saw the city's transport proceeding, a question Mr Anicich said required a long-term view.
"I look forward to the day when there is light rail running from the new Newcastle terminus to the suburbs,"Mr Anicich said.
"People need to think not about today or tomorrow but 10 years from now."
Asked what would happen on Boxing Day, Mr Anicich said that was a question for the NSW Transport minister.
2.24: Greens committee member David Shoebridge said the cost-benefit analysis was "fundamentally flawed" as it assumed the university of Newcastle's inner city move was contingent on the truncation, a fact disputed by university representatives earlier in Friday's hearing.
"It's never been corrected and you know that," Mr Shoebridge said, drawing applause.
Mr Anicich said the reality at the time of the report was now superseded.
"Today the reality is that that spend is happening," Mr Anicich said.
"The university has now committed to spend those figures and is doing so."
"There have been 20-odd reports commissioned by various instrumentalities over the past few years," Mr Anicich said.
2.17: Mr Anicich said he believed none of the ICAC witnesses were asked questions about their involvement in the decisions the committee was examining.
When Lynda Voltz was asked whether former Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy would have made representations to government on the rail line and other decisions, Mr Anicich agreed he likely did.
"The Hunter Business Chamber certainly did," he said.
"[The rail line] is a decision made by the state government, not by the then Lord Mayor of Newcastle."
When asked whether he had seen a cost-benefit analysis of truncating the rail, Mr Anicich said there was "some information in the 2009 Hunter Development Corporation report," Mr Anicich said.
2.08: Mr Anicich opened with a statement questioning the terms of reference for the committee, and arguing attempts to undermine former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay should have been included.
"With the greatest respect to the members of the committee, I'm concerned that the inquiry seems to be about the politics of no and the politics of negativity, all of which have been holding this region back for far too long," Mr Anicich said.
"It is just not an option to say we want to hold on to what we have - the world has moved on."
2.05: We're back. Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan and former Chamber president Richard Anicich are about to offer an opening statement.
1.20: It's lunchtime, and Friends of King Edward Park are finished.
Next up we have Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan at 2pm.
Stay tuned. In the meantime you can read Ian Kirkwood's take on Crakanthorp v Pearce from earlier this morning.
1.15: Intricacies of the former King Edward Park bowling club and the site's classification continue.
No revelations here so far.
The group say making them trustees would allow them to improve the site.
"We've made various inquiries and we can't find out who the trustees actually are," one of the Friends of King Edward Park members tells the committee.
1.10: The group wants a moratorium on development in the park and are asking to be made trustees of the reserve.
Lynda Voltz asks the first questions, which are regarding land zonings and which planning documents applied to the site when approval was given.
1:00: Dr Lewer highlights that they have been fighting the legality of the consent for a function centre above the park.
The discussion has turned to appendices to the group's submissions, which the committee has resolved not to publish publicly.
Rev Nile alludes to the fact that some sections were excluded due to limits on material relating to ICAC and the item is left there.
A comment is also made about donations to Tim Owen's campaign but taken no further.
"This seat is quite hot," the spokesman observes.
12.50: The ICAC-related comments have been raised again in questions from Ms Cusack.
Ms Grierson said she regretted her comments about Mr Hazzard and apologised.
"I have withdrawn that," she said.
Ms Cusack asked whether a mention of the NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian in Ms Grierson's submission was meant to infer she and the NSW cabinet were corrupt.
Read aloud, the submission argued that donations from Mr McCloy and developer Hilton Grugeon had impacted decisions by the planning department, cabinet and the transport minister.
"I have never accused the whole cabinet of being corrupt," Ms Grierson said.
Mr Pearce was hissed down by the audience over a mention regarding slander of the state government during the same discussion.
Ms Grierson has stepped down for a Friends of King Edward Park spokesman, Dr John Lewer.
12.40: Asked if she supported the lord mayor's call for the council to become the single consent authority, Ms Grierson said she supported Mr Crakanthorp's suggestion for a Hunter transport authority were vital.
"The Hunter is a huge region and it's much more than two kilometres of rail line," Ms Grierson said.
Ms Grierson nominated the Boxing Day truncation as "an insult to the people of this city".
"I welcome anything this committee can do to stop this division," she said.
12.35: Lynda Voltz asks Ms Grierson how the city's regeneration could have gone better.
She said the city's renewal strategy, a "well-accepted document", had sparked disquiet and rage after height limits agreed for the east end were adjusted for GPT and UrbanGrowth's landmark towers.
Ms Grierson said high-rise was always planned for the city's west end and the decision to move it into the east was handled poorly.
"It was horrified at that [16-day consultation] period because it was a radical amendment," Ms Grierson said.
12.30: Ms Cusack called a point of order as Ms Grierson sought to turn her attention to the Newcastle Art Gallery's expansion, arguing the former Newcastle MP's opening comments were lengthy and saying "more smear under parliamentary privilege" on the subject of gallery.
12.27: Ms Grierson has said she believes a range of planning authorities including UrbanGrowth NSW were "improperly influenced" by illegal donations.
"I raise allegations that I am aware of that the rail corridor in the city area could become a car park," she said.
"In Newcastle people talk and you can try to keep things secret, you can try to keep them private, but it just doesn't happen."
Ms Grierson said she believed the shortfall in on-site parking at the University of Newcastle campus was a "deliberate ploy" that would result in parking infrastructure on the rail corridor.
"I believe there are plans afoot to build a car park," she said.
A mention of Brad Hazzard sparked a fiery exchange in which Greg Pearce asked Ms Grierson to "have some grace" after she referred to ICAC allegations.
Ms Cusack began questioning Ms Grierson over whether she had disclosed confidential evidence given to the corruption watchdog, but Ms Grierson was adamant she referred only to allegations aired publicly and through the media.
12:17: Cr Doyle is done. Former Federal Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson is the next witness.
12.15: Cr Doyle deflected a question from Catherine Cusack whether she liked Mr Gouldthorp or Mr McCloy saying it was irrelevant.
"I am actually calling into question their actions," Cr Doyle said.
Ms Cusack said that given information was aired under parliamentary privilege that would "clearly be defamatory in any other forum", she was unsure what Cr Doyle was hoping for given the council was apparently already under investigation over her concerns.
12:12: Cr Therese Doyle is detailing a lack of details on several key planning documents in response to Mr Shoebridge's questions.
"It's very symptomatic of the complete exclusion of the council even though there was a working majority for the then Lord Mayor," Cr Doyle said.
Reverend Nile asks Cr Doyle about her request for a full investigation into the council, and whether it is warranted after a new mayor's selection.
Cr Doyle said she believed Mr McCloy's tenure had harmed the democratic function of the council but alleged he was "assisted" by the general manager.
Cr Doyle said she had reported her concerns to the Department of Local Government and was aware an investigation is underway.
"I feel there needs to be an investigation into what has gone on so that it does not continue," Cr Doyle said.
Asked whether she was concerned an investigation could lead to the elected council being suspended, Cr Doyle said she believed it was unlikely.
"This is solely my request, I have not collaborated with any other councillor on [my submission]," Cr Doyle said.
12:00: "It potentially began with the appointment of a highly political chief of staff," Cr Doyle tells committee member Greg Donnelly when he asks when the alleged breaches Cr Doyle refers to began at Newcastle City a Council.
"It became increasingly clear the council was breaching the Local Government Act when the [planning document] was made and in the time leading up to [it]."
Cr Doyle is also cited notices of motion that were not accepted.
"The general manager told me he wouldn't print them, he wouldn't put them on the business paper, because they were unlawful," Cr Doyle said.
Mr Donnelly asks if this was a direct interference with Cr Doyle's work as an elected councillor.
"Absolutely," Cr Doyle replied.
11:45: And we're back! The committee seems very keen to stick to the timeframe and we are precisely on track so far.
It started with a bang, with Greens councillor Therese Doyle taking aim at the former Lord Mayor.
Cr Doyle told the committee the council "ceased to function" democratically after former mayor Jeff McCloy's election and the appointment of general manager Ken Gouldthorp.
Cr Doyle calls for a full investigation and a freeze on any developments under planning documents produced during Mr McCloy's term.
"The complete failure of council to represent its constituents leads me to believe that council was [deceived]," she said.
Cr Doyle also took aim at the former Lord Mayor having a chief of staff but denied there were any "personal criticisms" in her call for an investigation into the role's creation and execution.
11.35: That's it for the first session. The two newly-elected politicians are dismissed after the Labor committee members are accused of "running interference" for them on several questions.
Yet more applause as they're dismissed.
Rev Nile announces that we're taking a short break, then Greens councillor Therese Doyle and Sharon Grierson are up next.
According to the schedule we're back again at 11.45.
11.30: Cr Nelmes says Honeysuckle has "cannibalised" part of the CBD while making her case for the council to take control as a broader consent authority.
"I'm not saying it hasn't been successful but how long can you keep the planning controls separate between Honeysuckle and the rest of the city," Cr. Nelmes asks.
"It won't work as Newcastle has to move forward."
Committee member Greg Pearce asks Mr Crakanthorp if he missed discussions in 2009 and 2010 about light rail.
"It has always been Labor party policy to retain rail right into Newcastle," Mr Crakanthorp said.
"Every candidate in the last 20 years who has run on that position has won."
Mr Pearce is cut off by a point of order as he asks Mr Crakanthorp about a potential conflict on interest over land in Wickham revealed in the Herald earlier this month.
"I've always been very clear about any conflict of interest about this issue and excused myself from council whenever it has been raised," Mr Crakanthorp said.
Discussion devolves briefly as Greg Pearce is accused of "badgering" Mr Crakanthorp.
Greg Donnelly begins demanding Mr Pearce allow the Newcastle MP to answer a question about the budget for a Newcastle convention centre.
Dispute breaks out over whether Mr Crakanthorp is answering the question or not.
"You can't make him answer it the way you want," Ms Voltz tells the government committee members.
Unsurprisingly, the dispute appears split along party lines.
11.24: "I don't know how on earth we are going to get these people in the coming years to this major infrastructure in our city centre," Cr Nelmes said, sparking another round of applause.
David Shoebridge asks Cr Nelmes to clarify whether she wants a single planning authority resting with the council.
She confirms that's what she's seeking to replace joint regional planning panels and other tiers that have created a "fractured" environment.
"It's like a multi-headed Hydra," Mr Shoebridge observes.
Cr Nelmes says it's important for a new regime and reminds the panel the building heights in the east end can be reversed.
She said it was vital planning was a simpler process.
"We have an excellent planning department [but] every time people don't get what they want under our [council plans] they go to another consent authority."
11.15: Cr Nelmes says there is a need for "serious planning reform" and seeks leave for the council to make a formal submission as they lacked time to compile a comprehensive one.
"You will never get a consistent voice or a consistent way when you have so many layers of bureaucracy...working against each other," Cr Nelmes said.
"We need to be singing by the same song sheet in Newcastle."
Lynda Voltz asks Ms Nelmes to detail former mayor Jeff McCloy's holdings in Hunter Street.
The Lord Mayor says Mr McCloy's peculiarly interest register provides full detail but she says it is "long and complex" and suggests the committee seek a copy.
Ms Voltz asks for details on how the Hunter street light rail route would differ from using the heavy rail corridor.
"The problem with Hunter street is it's going to cost a significant amount of money, number one," Mr Crakanthorp said.
He cites engineers telling him confidentially there were major problems with that route, particularly with narrowing on Hunter Street near Scott Street.
11.10: A steady stream of audience members means the public gallery is now almost full, filling almost 100 chairs in the public gallery.
Tim Crakanthorp refers to a "secretive and private" group involved in decisions during his opening statement. He mentions former Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy and GPT.
"There's nothing wrong with landholders benefitting from government decisions ... but the problem we have is the government has not disclosed its processes or advice."
Releasing all documents would dispel the idea of corruption, he said.
Cr Nelmes says her main concern is the changes to planning controls.
"What we have seen in Newcastle in recent years is a very closed shop decision-making process," cr Nelmes said.
"If you have elected representatives finding out on the front page of the paper what is happening with the building heights in their own city, then you have a problem."
11:01: Applause for Newcastle's two newest politicians, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp. Reverend Nile's assertion they would like to be questioned separately is quickly shot down - they're sharing a timeslot to make sure all the witnesses fit in, apparently.
11:00: Committee members Catherine Cusack and chair Fred Nile clash briefly over questions asking Mr Chapman about what would happen if they recommend the Premier hold off or reverse the decision to cut the rail line.
Reverend Nile appeared to take exception to the line of questioning. A squeal of feedback and a few long, silent seconds bring it to an end.
10.55: "As we see a knowledge city built around a university, hopefully the kids won't have to travel down to Sydney for their opportunities," Mr Chapman said.
Mr Chapman says Newcastle residents "have looked down on ourselves as a city".
Ms Cusack asks what the impact would be if truncation was delayed beyond Boxing Day or indefinitely.
"It would be very, very traumatic," Mr Chapman replied.
"There's a mood for change, there's a mood for development ... it takes time."
As far as the 10% commercial vacancy rate goes, Mr Chapman says it's an interesting question whether it would change.
Scoffs from the public gallery greet Mr Chapman's assertion that putting buildings along the empty rail corridor is "ridiculous" and unlikely.
10.50: Mr Shoebridge turns the discussion to land-banking and whether it would be beneficial for owners to wait for the rail line's removal before forging ahead.
"I think it would be some time before there's significant improvement," Mr Chapman said.
Mr Chapman tells the committee he's 53 in response to questions about how long the rail debate has been raging, and confirms he supports truncating the arrangement.
"I believe the rail line needs to go to open up the city."
"I believe that over the medium to long term, and I'm not talking next year, that [truncation] will create a city that's vibrant and lively and I'm excited about that."
10:45: 10.45: Mr Chapman said he had "no idea why he was called" but assumes its due to 35 years in the Hunter's commercial real estate market. He says his projects include helping GPT UrbanGrowth with the leasing of their mall properties. "We consider that a short to medium-term appointment," he said.
Labor's Lynda Voltz is asking about GPT, and adds an aside that she shops at Charlestown because "it's better than most of the Sydney ones".
Mr Chapman says his company's view on global retail is that there's improvement after a few tough years.
"In Newcastle I think I can say it's marginally better than it was," he said, citing the mall.
"There's a little bit happening."
Mr Chapman hopes the CBD could become "destination, clever retail" in the vein of "Darby Street on steroids" but was unlikely to include a Kotara-type development.
The Greens' David Shoebridge is talking commercial real estate, which Mr Chapman says is thinned to about 88,000m of space.
"That fits into one tower at Barangaroo," he said.
Mr Shoebridge asks how much market there is for east end towers for commercial real estate.
"There is an argument in this city that an any time you can handle one new building," he said.
"There's always room for one building at any given time."
Mr Shoebridge questions whether new premises would simply encourage existing business to "hollow out" and upgrade, which Mr Chapman says would lead to adaptive re-use including student housing.
10.33: Both Liberals, Greg Pearce and Catherine Cusack, are highlighting the number of jobs created by the project. Ms Cusack clarifies that $55 million of the total $95 million is coming to the Hunter from state and federal sources.
Rev Nile says the committee is "in no way critical of what you're doing" but focused on student transport.
The University representatives cede the floor to Colliers International Newcastle managing director Chris Chapman.
10:23: Responding to questions from ALP committee member Greg Donnelly, Mr McGregor says he needs to put the five on-site parks in context.
"These facilities aren't like a normal office blocks," Mr McGregor said.
"These will be high turnover places. These numbers [of how many people will be there in peak times] need to be viewed over a longer term."
Mr McGregor takes a question on notice regarding whether rail line changes would alter the number of students arriving by public transport.
He says the rail line "never came into the business case" and was unable to explain how a Hunter Development Corporation cost-benefit analysis prepared by consultants said the move was predicated on the rail's removal.
Mr McGregor said a basement car park was considered but never made it to the costing stage, and the university's focus was always on park and ride or other alternatives to private cars directly to the site.
10:09: University of Newcastle representatives Nat McGregor (chief operating officer), and Allan Tracey (director infrastructure and facilities services) are opening proceedings.
Mr McGregor tells Labor's Lynda Voltz the university has no position in the rail line debate and is focused on its students.
The move into the city is not contingent on the rail's removal, he says, and the university's focus is its students
10:00: The seats are starting to fill at City Hall as the hearing gets underway.
Doors were briefly closed as the select committee had a private discussion for about 20 minutes.
Rev Fred Nile is opening the meeting right on time.
9.55: Good morning all.
I've got big shoes to fill after Jason Gordon's coverage of the first Newcastle hearing, but we'll see what we can do.
Today is the second hearing in Newcastle before another in Sydney on Monday, and has a pretty extensive list of witnesses.
Among those appearing at Newcastle City Hall are the city's new lord mayor Nuatalie Nelmes, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, former federal member Sharon Grierson and members of the Newcastle Greens, Friends of King Edward Park, Hunter Business Chamber and Hunter Transport for Regional Development.
I'll be updating this page as regularly as possible throughout the day.
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