Matthew Kelly reporting for the Newcastle Herald
Updated August 22 2023 – 11:19am, first published August 21 2023 – 4:49pm
Hunter Park review found no governance issues.
A review of the Hunter Park project has found undisclosed property holdings relating to former minister for the Hunter Tim Crakanthorp did not impact on decision-making processes or governance relating to the project.
Premier Chris Minns directed the Cabinet Office to undertake the urgent review of governance, on August 5 after it was revealed Mr Crakanthorp had not disclosed all of his extended family’s property holdings in and around Broadmeadow.
The review, released on Monday afternoon, found there were no major issues with processes.
It recommended the pause on NSW Government work on precinct planning should be lifted to reduce delays and provide certainty to stakeholders and the community.
The review was conducted by the Cabinet Office and engaged Chris Wilson, an independent planning expert, to provide advice on land use planning matters in the report.
The office undertook detailed engagement directly with the Department of Planning and Environment and City of Newcastle.
The review made four recommendations to Government to ensure ongoing transparency and robust governance.
“The Broadmeadow Precinct is an important regional development project which will deliver much needed housing to the Hunter region. The outcomes of this urgent and intensive review will give the community and stakeholders confidence in the processes around this critical work,” Mr Minns said on Monday.
Mr Crakanthorp declined to comment about the review.
An artist’s impression of the Hunter Park entertainment precinct.
The recommendations are:
1 – Task the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) to recommence work on the Broadmeadow regionally significant growth area, including: implementing its proposed governance arrangements and establishing the strategic land use planning framework
2 – Task the DPE Secretary with reporting quarterly to the Secretary’s Board on Broadmeadow until a Delivery Plan is finalised
3 – Task the Minister for Planning to finalise the Structure Plan, Broadmeadow Place Strategy, Statement of Intended Effects for the State led rezoning together with a Delivery Plan for the Broadmeadow Precinct by Quarter 1, 2024.
4 – Note that a Ministerial Direction will be issued to require future development to comply with the Broadmeadow Place Strategy.
Planning Minister Paul Scully confirmed the recommendations would be adopted.
“I am committed to seeing the urban renewal project in Broadmeadow – such a key growth area for the Hunter – come to fruition and kick-start urban renewal in the region.
“This project is based on incredible collaboration between Newcastle City Council and the Department of Planning and Environment, and it is important that, now the due diligence measures have been undertaken, that work can continue.”
Mr Minns referred Mr Crakanthorp to ICAC on August 1 for what he described as a “significant breach of the ministerial code” for failing to disclose “substantial” private family holdings.
“In relation to properties owned by him, they are disclosed on his pecuniary register as a member of parliament but there are properties held by his wife in the Hunter. There are also other properties held by in-laws in the Hunter we should have been made aware of,” Mr Minns said.
He said the Newcastle MP would be dumped from the Labor party if ICAC launched a formal investigation.
Following his sacking, Mr Crakanthorp told Parliament he “unfortunately omitted” a property owned by his wife, Laura, from his initial ministerial disclosure and became aware of a conflict of interest involving his in-laws’ Broadmeadow properties some time after lodging that first disclosure.
The Property Council of Australia Hunter Regional Director Anita Hugo welcomed the review outcome.
“Lifting the pause will ensure that important planning work can continue and it’s pleasing to see such a rapid response to this after having raised it with government recently,” she said.
“The Broadmeadow Precinct holds significant potential for regional growth, offering a substantial 300-hectare site for urban renewal in Newcastle.
“This endeavor is poised to provide invaluable housing and job opportunities over the next two decades, contributing to the continued development and vibrancy of the Hunter region.
“We appreciate the four recommendations put forth by the review to enhance ongoing transparency.
Key regional lobby groups have also urged the government not to allow the Crakanthorp scandal to derail the project.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson previously told the Newcastle Herald the government should differentiate between the Hunter Park project on Crown land and other proposals to rezone nearby privately owned land which could become the subject of ICAC’s inquiries.
“This is a setback,” he said.
“Hunter Park is a regional priority we’ve been talking about for years.
“There’s been significant work done on planning it. It’s a mature project. We’d like to see the government keep going with it and not see it get caught up by other issues.”