I LEFT Newcastle 16 years ago and this year returned to a city which was barely recognisable, not only in terms of its transforming cityscape but its political landscape as well.
In the first decade of my absence, trips home left me feeling somewhat bewildered.
The CBD was dying, and it was a miserable death by any account.
While just across the railway tracks Honeysuckle began to loom above the harbour.
In January I came home to a town where a debate about its future was raging and the focal point was the rail line that ran right down the centre of the city.
It was also a town that would soon enter a state of deep shock after revelations at ICAC.
In a short span of time two Liberal members of Parliament would stand down, and a mayor would resign amid admissions of illegal donations made, and handed over in envelopes.
At the heart of the scandal was a desire by some to breathe life back into the CBD but how some key decisions were made became the subject of parliamentary inquiry chaired by Reverend Fred Nile.
With the truncation of the rail now so close, the people of Newcastle deserve to have their questions answered before the rail, which has served the people of this city for 156 years, is cut on December 26.
With rumours and speculation rife, the full report and the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry (due in March) should be produced before truncation begins.
Not enough information has been provided about the future use of the rail corridor.
Parliament refused to support a bill which would have ensured its future as a recreational corridor.
All we have been given is a drawing of an oversized carport which will become the Wickham Transport Interchange for a light rail service which is still years away.
How can we – the residents, the taxpayers, the ratepayers, the electorate – be able to make an informed assessment about whether the truncation of the rail will be good for the city when the information which would allow us to do so has not been released?
How do we weigh up the pros and cons of the loss of seamless transport into the heart of the city against the potential benefits of opening up more land for development when the cost-benefit analysis and scoping studies on the impact of the truncation of the rail line remain secret documents?
As a mother of three young children, I have learned when one of my kids is holding something behind their back and shaking their head and telling me I am not allowed to see it, it usually means the object in their possession is something they fear might get them into trouble.
Call me cynical, but I wonder whether there just might be something in those documents the government does not want Novocastrians to know.
When there are so many questions still unanswered about the process, and still so much distrust within the community, the truncation of the rail line on December 26 should not proceed.
Whether the rail stays or goes in the long-term is not the issue.
What is at the heart of this is governance and, more importantly, the legacy Newcastle will be left with after the golden era of getting things done behind closed doors is over.
The argument for truncation has always been that the CBD is dead.
But that is no longer the case.
What would happen if the city was left to organically rejuvenate, as is currently under way in the Hunter Street Mall?
Would it be so bad if slowly, over time, the city was to come alive again under its own steam.
And wouldn’t that be the most sustainable form of development – growth based on actual demand?
The idea the CBD will never again come alive without the truncation of the rail line, without 17-storey buildings and without millions of dollars pumped in by those who hope to benefit, does not add up.
Rejuvenation is already happening.