NICK KALDAS returns to audit corruption risks in NSW planning system …


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Nick Kaldas returns to audit corruption risks in NSW planning system

The former deputy commissioner of the NSW Police, Nick Kaldas, will conduct an audit into corruption risks in the state’s planning system, following a string of high-profile scandals.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has handed Mr Kaldas a broad brief to scrutinise risks in the system and “make recommendations in relation to the decision-making governance” of state and local agencies.

The appointment of Mr Kaldas, who is to report at the end of November, comes on the back of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into the conduct of councillors and senior staff at the former Canterbury Council.

“This is about building a planning system that people can have faith and confidence in,” Mr Roberts said.

“We want to be held up around the world, that if you want a robust, strong and transparent planning system, have a look at NSW,” he said.


The terms of the review to be conducted by Mr Kaldas, who has also served as the Director of Internal Oversight at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East, require him to assess whether there are government issues that “risk the integrity of the system”. He is also charged with examining whether there are aspects of interstate or overseas systems that could be incorporated in NSW.


Mr Kaldas’ review is the latest in a number of anti-corruption measures adopted by the state government. One policy, championed by Mr Roberts, has been to strip councils of the ability to decide on development applications.

That function has been vested in mandatory Local Planning Panels, which enforce planning controls adopted by councillors.

One of the issues at the former Canterbury Council was that though the council used a local panel, known as an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, that body was empowered only to make recommendations.

On occasions, councillors voted to approve developments against the recommendation of the council’s IHAP. The corruption inquiry is addressing whether Liberal councillor Michael Hawatt and Labor’s Pierre Azzi had financial stakes in the developments on which they were voting.

The Canterbury inquiry, known as Operation Dasha, also claimed the political career of parliamentary secretary Daryl Maguire, who was caught on tape with Mr Hawatt attempting to secure commissions in property transactions for large “clients”.

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Daryl Maguire quit the Liberal party after it was revealed at ICAC that he had tried broker deals for a “mega big” client with a former Canterbury councillor.

But Canterbury is not the only council to have been embroiled in corruption scandals. A string of decisions at Auburn council prompted an inquiry under the Local Government Act, which concluded that multiple planning decisions lacked merit.

ICAC also this year submitted briefs of evidence against senior staff at the former Botany Council.

Mr Roberts said another anti-corruption measure would be securing updated local environment plans to determine the shape of development in local areas.

“The best way to prevent corrupt rezoning is to have strong local strategic plans,” Mr Roberts said. The government has promised councils $2.5 million to update their LEPs.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts says he wants to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts says he wants to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime.Photo: AAP

If LEPs were updated, councillors would be under pressure to explain deviations from those plans.

Mr Roberts said NSW already had a strong planning system but this latest audit was about “strengthening it even further”.

“We want to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime and that’s why having Kaldas in will further ensure we are that exemplary,” the Minister said.

“This is the legacy that I want to leave and this government wants to leave,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Kaldas is also to hand a draft report to the Planning Secretary by the end of September.