MAITLAND Mayor Peter Blackmore reckons the people of the Hunter should give The GPT Group a fair go with its $650 million plan to transform Newcastle's central business district into a shopping mecca.
Cr Blackmore told The Herald after a meeting with GPT executives yesterday that the project should be allowed to unfold to see what benefits there are for Maitland.
The Herald reported last week that the project could be in jeopardy unless the State Government commits within five months to cutting the inner-city rail line at Wickham.
GPT said yesterday that a risk analysis of its proposed retail, entertainment and residential precinct around the Hunter Street Mall showed that a heavy rail line through the CBD was a significant barrier to the potential success of its investment.
"They gave us a briefing on what they have put forward, it was a courtesy thing to say this is the proposal," Cr Blackmore said.
"If it proceeds there will be benefits for Maitland people who will work there so it is a definite prospect for future employment with a lot of people from Maitland already commuting between the two centres.
"Cutting the railway line is just one part of it, a tough call after it has been there 150 years.
"But what we have to do is be fair and have a look at the proposal with an open mind. Maybe there are things that need to be altered, maybe it's hop off the train and hop on a bus but let's not look at it with blinkers on, let's be open.
"This is a great opportunity for Newcastle to move forward or else it will continue to go backwards," Cr Blackmore said.