Michael Parris reporting for the Newcastle Herald
Updated August 11 2023 – 10:49am, first published August 10 2023 – 5:30pm
New Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley. Picture by Jonathan Carroll
The NSW government has moved to assure the Hunter community that Tim Crakanthorp’s referral to ICAC will not significantly delay planning for the Hunter Park redevelopment.
A spokesperson for Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley said Cabinet Office acting secretary Peter Duncan would complete his review of Mr Crakanthorp’s involvement in Hunter Park and other planning processes “soon”.
“A timely, independent review into the Hunter Park redevelopment project is under way,” the spokesperson said.
“We’ll know the outcome of that soon.
“This review will ensure we are comfortable with the decision-making process that affects major development and investment decisions in the Hunter.
“It is about applying the principles of good governance and ensuring we have the confidence going forward.”
The Committee for the Hunter and Business Hunter have called on the government to ensure the Crakanthorp scandal does not derail planning for Hunter Park, a proposed sports, leisure and housing precinct on 63 hectares of government-owned land at Broadmeadow.
Premier Chris Minns referred Mr Crakanthorp to the Independent Commission Against Corruption and sacked him from his cabinet last week after learning the then Minister for the Hunter had not “promptly” disclosed the full extent of his family’s property interests in Newcastle.
Mr Minns said he was concerned Mr Crakanthorp’s actions as a minister might have intersected with his private interests.
Mr Crakanthorp’s wife, Laura, and in-laws own nine properties between them in Broadmeadow Road, a potential conflict of interest for the Newcastle MP in his dealings with planning agencies over the future of Hunter Park and the proposed rezoning of private land in the suburb.
Mr Crakanthorp told Parliament last week that he had unintentionally omitted one of his wife’s properties from his initial disclosure under the Ministerial Code of Conduct but had included it in a subsequent return.
He said he had disclosed in his initial return that his father-in-law owned properties at Broadmeadow and at a later date had told the Premier he had become aware these properties “now represented a conflict of interest”.
The Newcastle Herald does not suggest Mr Crakanthorp’s wife or in-laws have done anything wrong.
Lands and Property Minister Steve Kamper said last week that Mr Duncan had been instructed to examine “all current major Hunter region development processes involving state government agencies”.
Senior planning officials have reportedly been ordered to stop work on Hunter Park while the review takes place.
Government sources said the ICAC investigation, which could take years to report back to Parliament, would not stop planning agencies working on Hunter Park.
The former Coalition government announced in December that it would initiate rezonings in Broadmeadow and six Sydney suburbs to speed up housing supply.
In April, City of Newcastle called for public feedback on a “place strategy” for Broadmeadow, which the NSW government has identified as a regionally significant growth area in its Hunter Regional Plan 2041.
A council brochure on the place strategy says the NSW Department of Planning and Environment will “deliver a planning proposal to rezone land in the Broadmeadow precinct for over 2000 new homes”.
The strategy’s subject area includes the section of Broadmeadow Road where Mr Crakanthorp’s wife and in-laws own property.