Newcastle to ‘pave paradise and put in a parking lot’?

Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG) representative Karen Read speaking at the rally.

The V8 Supercars race through Newcastle East will leave behind a trail of destruction even before the checkered flag goes down next November.

Former Liberal leader Mike Baird and Labor Party mayor Nuatali Helms announced that the race would be held in Newcastle late last year following not very transparent negotiations.

The apparent secrecy has continued and residents are still asking how they are supposed to live with high speed racing just outside their front doors.

More than 300 people demanded answers to these questions at a rally on March 5.

Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG) representative Karen Read told the rally the parkland where they were gathering was to be concreted over by a speedway pit the size of two football fields. More than 30 “shade trees”, including 40-year-old Norfolk Island pines, and 150 shrubs will be removed to make way for the racetrack.

Newcastle East’s narrow streets and parklands will become a construction site for eight months of the year as infrastructure is erected and then dismantled.

Weddings, dog off-leash areas, concerts, charity events, protests, picnics, fun runs, monster truck displays, vintage car runs, birthday parties, community gardens and other events that regularly occur in the East End will be cancelled each April to November.

Other local government areas, such as Gosford, had the sense to realise that motor car racing is best conducted on an actual race track and rejected the SuperCars. Newcastle Council however, was keen to do Baird’s bidding and accept the race.

Newcastle Labor’s inability to stand up to Baird is also shown by them giving the green light for development on the former rail corridor.

The East End is the site of one of the earliest white settlements in Australia and a traditional home of the Awabakal people. It was saved from developers once before when Newcastle Trades Hall Council and the Builders Labourers Federation imposed green bans at the request of NERG in the early 1970s.

If the rally organisers get their way Joni Mitchell’s line ‘Pave paradise and put in a parking lot’ will be a reality in Newcastle.

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