Newcastle Council: a shift to the right

September 27, 2008

The Newcastle ALP branch effectively delivered Newcastle Council to the right in the September 13 elections, by preferencing Aaron Buman's team of "razor gang" independents instead of the Greens.

Buman supported the NSW power privatisation plans and scrapping the Newcastle rail line. He also believed that the council-sponsored youth venue, the Loft, was a waste of money and should be closed.

The preference deal indicates a rightward shift by the ALP. As a result, the Greens lost three of their four positions, with Buman nearly winning mayor.

On the outgoing council the ALP and Greens formed a two-thirds majority and could be relied upon to stop truly outrageous legislation passing. Centre-right independent Mayor John Tate was returned as mayor with four ALP councillors, one member of the Greens, a new Liberal, and six independents, five of whom are pro-development.

Preventing inappropriate development in Newcastle will now require strong community campaigns. The ALP and Greens will no longer have the numbers to block legislation outright.

Newcastle Council has to date been able to maintain the city's 42-metre building height limit, despite constant pressure from developers. The construction of tall buildings, and the scrapping of the rail line are two key policies that the new council may try to implement.

A September 14 press release by the Newcastle Greens warned that the council "has been left dangerously vulnerable to the influence of vested interests". Needless to say, reducing Newcastle's carbon footprint is unlikely to be a high priority for the new council.

The sole Greens councillor returned in the elections, Michael Osborne, said on September 14: "The result is very disappointing from a Greens perspective, because the Green vote was up across the city, and despite posting our best ever vote in most wards, the number of Greens councillors on Newcastle Council will drop from four to one or two."

The Socialist Alliance polled close to 4% in Ward Three.

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