Newcastle groups call for city revitalisation to be reviewed in light of ICAC inquiries into illegal donations from property developers

TIM OWEN

TIM OWEN

THERE were calls across the city for stained development proposals, including the new light rail project and GPT's multi-storey apartment blocks in the CBD, to come to a halt as the Independent Commission Against Corruption grilled witnesses for the second week following allegations of illegal donations from property developers.

On Monday the ICAC heard evidence from several Newcastle businesspeople, shedding light on the business group Newcastle Alliance and its so-called third party "Fed Up!" campaign, which was paid for by Nathan Tinkler's company Buildev.

Taking the stand, former deputy chair of Newcastle Alliance Tracey McKelligott said she had no idea that $50,000 from Mr Tinkler's Serene Lodge was donated to the alliance.

Another two lots of $10,000 was donated by Newcastle's "6.5", a group of influential business people named after Club 13 (a businessmen's breakfast club).

Newcastle restaurateur Neil Slater, a member of 6.5, said the group of about 20 men morphed into "Fed Up", which advocated the removal of the rail line.

Hotelier Rolly de With, also a member of 6.5, said the Fed Up campaign was anti-Labor but denied he knew Buildev was funding it, despite being the treasurer.

This week's events follow startling events from last week involving Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell, who have resigned from their state seats.

Last Tuesday Tim Owen revealed he had lied in evidence he gave to the commission a day earlier, and pocketed $10,000 from developer Jeff McCloy, who would later become the lord mayor of Newcastle.

It followed revelations from Andrew Cornwell that he had also accepted $20,000 in donations in the lead-up to the election from developers.

On Wednesday, developer Hilton Grugeon refuted Mr Cornwell's versions of events.

On Thursday, Mr McCloy told the ICAC he also gave $1500 cash to Swansea Liberal MP Garry Edwards, in addition to giving cash to Mr Cornwell and Mr Owen.

Mr Edwards issued a statement, and decided to stand aside from the Liberal Party and looked forward to clearing his name.

Mr McCloy said he "may have" also given money to councillor Allan Robinson to help fund his local government campaign, but then later denied it.

He resigned as lord mayor on Sunday.

Although illegal, Mr McCloy has maintained he believes it is a constitutional right to be part of the political process and donate to political campaigns.

Premier Mike Baird apologised to Newcastle in an open letter, vowing to make amends and deliver all funding commitments to the region.

Community reactions to ICAC inquiry

Joan Dawson, Save Our Rail

"There was always a fixation that the rail line had to be cut to improve connectivity across the city. But just look at any other city in the world - they have crossings, bridges and tunnels.

"It's ridiculous that they want to cut the line; they still haven't proven we need to have it cut. The land where the line rail is will support the tall buildings they want to build.

"I think the two are linked. We'll be supporting calls for a probity audit. The rail issue is crucial in all of these lines of corruption inquiry."

Lyn Kilby, Throsby Community Alliance

"It's undeniable the state government owed Newcastle an apology. The Premier has to step up. There needs to be direction.

"The state government has got an enormous amount of money out of this town and now we are hanging in the wind. Where's the inner city plan going?"

Geoff Evans, Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA) chairman

"NICRA calls for the Premier to put a hold on changes to inner city planning controls that allow spot rezoning to enable UrbanGrowth/GPT high-rise development in "Newcastle's heritage centre.

An inquiry into development in Newcastle would uncover how this city's development and planning regime has become so tainted by corruption, while ensuring proper planning policies and procedures will be implemented in Newcastle."

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