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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Gabriel Fowler

Missing in action: State Government sidelines Tim Crakanthorp

The 'rainbow of sand' spectacle at Stockton Beach, the start of a sand renourishment program which will put 100,000 cubic metres of sand on Stockton Beach, which began on October 16. Picture by Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE MP Tim Crakanthorp is no longer on the Stockton Beach Taskforce which he helped to establish in 2020 after a years-long campaign.

Mr Crakanthorp has been conspicuously missing from the picture of the taskforce's success in getting some sand back onto Stockton beach as part of a longer-term renourishment program.

An invitation to photograph the historic first day of the program on October 16 excluded Mr Crakanthorp, putting the Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty and the new Minister for the Hunter, Yasmin Catley, in the frame instead.

Mr Crakanthorp was not named in media releases, was not invited, and did not attend.

That was then: Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp with Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty on June 15, 2023. Picture by Marina Neil.

It is in stark contrast to the state government's position when it announced its $21 million commitment to mass sand nourishment in February, when Mr Minns and Mr Crakanthorp stood together.

Another photo opportunity on June 15 resulted in pictures of Ms Moriarty and Mr Crakanthorp standing shoulder to shoulder on the beach before the first taskforce meeting since 2022.

A Newcastle Herald investigation can reveal the Minns state government has quietly removed Mr Crakanthorp from the taskforce sometime between that meeting in June, which he attended, and the second meeting held in September, which he did not.

It is understood that during that time, and without discussion among members, his name was removed from the taskforce terms of reference.

Previous iterations of the terms of reference name Mr Crakanthorp as a member in his capacity as Newcastle MP.

Then Opposition spokesman for Local Government, Greg Warren, with Tim Crakanthorp and Nuatali Nelmes in February 21, 2020. Photo by Marina Neil

The office of Ms Moriarty, who now chairs the taskforce, did not answer questions put by the Newcastle Herald last week about Mr Crakanthorp's absence from the taskforce, or the possibility the state government is distancing itself from him.

"The NSW Government's representatives on the Stockton Beach Taskforce are the Minister for Regional NSW and the Minister for the Hunter", a statement from the minister said.

Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes was at the "rainbow of sand" photo opportunity last month. She wrote an opinion piece, submitted to the in the Herald this week, crediting Mr Crakanthorp's contribution to the project.

Mr Crakanthorp was asked to step down from the Cabinet as Minister for the Hunter in August after he "unfortunately omitted" a property owned by his wife in his initial disclosure of interests under the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Labor announces $21m in funding for Stockton Beach sand erosion, if elected, in February 2023. Picture shows Nuatali Nelmes, Tim Crakanthorp, Greg Warren and Declan Clausen, at Stockton Surf Club. Picture by Max Mason-Hubers

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is conducting a preliminary investigation into whether Mr Crakanthorp has substantially breached the code.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said he would not expel Mr Crakanthorp from the party room until or unless that probe was formalised.

In a Budget Estimates hearing on Tuesday, Mr Minn's described Mr Crakanthorp as "passionately committed" to a community which he had served "for a long, long time".

Tim Crakanthorp and NSW Premier Chris Minns pictured together in Newcastle before visiting Stockton Beach on October 31, 2022. Picture by Marina Neil

He would not be drawn on the Newcastle MP's future with the party, saying he had faith in ICAC.

"I think a fair-minded person would say the government has taken a decision to remove him from executive responsibility, but there does need to be due process in terms of the further inquiry," Mr Minns said.

Despite Mr Minn's stated position, Ms Catley has replaced Mr Crakanthorp on the taskforce.

Ms Moriarty declined to say why he had been sidelined, with questions to her office regarding that change, its timing, and the reasons behind it met with silence.

Tim Crakanthorp pictured with Stockton residents and then Shadow Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe, in 2018. Picture by Max Mason-Hubers

The move does not sit well with community members, who say the taskforce would not exisit without the work of Mr Crakanthorp.

They say he was instrumental in bringing the issue to the attention of then NSW premier Jodi McKay, and the then deputy premier John Barilaro, resulting in a $21 million commitment. He has attended every meeting since its inception at that time.

Tim Crakanthorp at Stockton Beach with then State Opposition Leader Jodi McKay, on February 18, 2020, following the forced closure of Lexie's on the beach cafe due to erosion. Picture by Jonathan Carroll.

Stockton Community Group leader and taskforce member Barbara Witcher said she had not been made aware that Mr Crakanthorp was no longer part of the taskforce, and it was not discussed at meetings.

"Tim has been fantastic in supporting the community, absolutely no doubt about it, and we wouldn't have the commitment for $21 million for mass sand nourishment if it hadn't been for him," Ms Witcher said.

"He was able to persuade the premier who came up here at Tim's invitation to look at the beach, and getting $21 million is a big accomplishment.

Stockton residents greet then Opposition Leader Jodi McKay, visiting Stockton beach to inspect the erosion first hand with Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, on September 25, 2019. Picture by Marina Neil

"I think the community generally would like to see Tim acknowledged for his ongoing commitment to Stockton beach. There's a lot of support for Tim in the community and if some error occurred, it was not corruption, and people are very grateful for the work he is doing, that he is continuing to do."

Another source closely involved with the project, who did not wish to be named, said Mr Crakanthorp should still be involved as a member of the taskforce given he is the Member for Newcastle and a "prime mover".

"I think the community members all feel that way," the Stockton resident said.

"We don't have any information about the matters for which Tim was removed from his post as Minister for the Hunter, we can't comment on those, we can't comment on as to whether they are true or not, and someone is investigating them, but until we have any knowledge about it, all we know is that Tim has been very important in getting things moving."

Mr Crakanthorp declined to comment on the changes to the taskforce, but said he was proud to have worked alongside the community to create it and to secure the $21 million needed to implement the sand renourishment program.

"There is still a long way to go but i am thrilled with the progress so far," Mr Crakanthorp said.

"I will always be committed to putting sand back on Stockton beach. Novocastrians know it's not about who makes the announcement, it's about delivering good outcomes for Stockton."

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