JUST hours before the NSW government moved into caretaker mode last week, the Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, approved four separate developments at Barangaroo, dealing another blow to critics attempting to stall the project.
After granting the approvals on March 3, just before the caretaker period began at midnight, Mr Kelly waited until yesterday to announce the go-ahead for all completed development applications at the site.
He approved the two biggest applications on the contentious harbourfront site – Lend Lease’s application to build a 43-storey commercial tower called C4 and an application from the government’s Barangaroo Delivery Authority to build the naturalistic headland park at the northern tip of the site championed by the former prime minister Paul Keating.
Other approvals allow Lend Lease to trial a remediation technology that treats contamination from an old gasworks in the ground, and a proposal to extend the size of an underground car park to be constructed at the southern end of the site where C4 is located.
Documents on the department’s website show Mr Kelly approved the four projects a day after he undermined a court case run by opponents of the $6 billion development by exempting the car park excavation from planning laws on remediation.
A judgment in that case is due this morning but Kirsty Ruddock, the lawyer acting for a coalition of community groups called Australians for a Sustainable Future, is pessimistic about prospects for the case and said the new approvals would make it much harder to stop Barangaroo proceeding.
‘‘We are disappointed Mr Kelly has not waited until the outcome of the court case to see if thereare issues to be revisited as a result of the judgment,” she said.
The deputy lord mayor of Sydney and a spokeswoman for Australians for a Sustainable Future, Marcelle Hoff, said she was ”gobsmacked” but vowed to continue to fight the development she says is oversized.
”We have got to keep on battling this. The issue now is the Labor government is a feather duster so our work must centre on working with the incoming government.”
Mr Kelly defended his decisions, which he said were the result of ”months of consultations”.
The headland park was a ”one-in-200-year opportunity to create a naturalistic headland inspired by its pre-1836 form, providing a brand new harbourside space that families will enjoy for generations”.
The group head of development with Lend Lease, David Hutton, said he believed ”all of Sydney” would be pleased with Mr Kelly’s approvals.
Source: SMH, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/state-election-2011/minister-ran-down-clock-for-approvals-20110309-1bo3f.html