NSW property arm Landcom faces axe to fix ‘John Brogden problem’
The NSW government is considering a plan to dissolve its troubled property development arm Landcom in order to address the politically sensitive task of removing its chief executive, John Brogden, a longstanding friend of the Premier.
The plan, to either dissolve the state-owned corporation or place it under the auspices of the NSW Planning Department, is being considered in part over concerns about a torrid culture at the agency, but also because of the “Brogden problem”, as some officials have begun to term it.
Mr Brogden is a former leader of the NSW Liberal Party and a friend of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. He was appointed to the $600,000-a-year job in May 2018 following a competitive recruitment process, having previously served as the agency’s acting chief executive for seven months. Questions were initially raised about his appointment because he was chosen above a preferred candidate put forward by the minister overseeing Landcom at the time, Anthony Roberts.
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The multi-billion-dollar organisation, which employs approximately 163 people, has experienced turmoil on a number of fronts, including sustained bullying allegations made against its chair, Suzanne Jones, and the loss of 33 staff over a two-year period. Another executive accused of bullying was paid a substantial amount of money to leave the organisation. Some of these issues predated Mr Brogden’s appointment.
Landcom’s role is to manage crown land for the NSW government and develop housing projects with a social and economic benefit to the state. Another priority is to address housing affordability and issues of supply throughout NSW.
The plan to dissolve the agency is being welcomed in some quarters as an opportunity to reform the agency’s culture under a new leadership and, separately, enable a soft exit for Mr Brogden.
Neither Landcom nor Mr Brogden responded to a request for comment.
“She can’t afford to have him go rogue,” a source said, referring to Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Brogden. A second source remarked: “What can they do? He’s a former Liberal leader.”
The Australian has been told that, separately, the NSW government is considering a plan to wind down the Sydney Olympic Park Authority over its alleged mismanagement of the Sydney Opal Tower crisis just before Christmas 2018.
The authority manages 430ha of parkland, seven sporting venues and a business district in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, which attracts more than 14 million visitors each year and is home to about 230 businesses.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is understood to be supportive of the plan to dissolve both agencies, but said in a statement that no changes had been made by the government.
SOPA chairman John Fahey, a former NSW premier and party elder, is understood to be lobbying the government to save the organisation. The Premier did not respond to requests for comment.
Labor planning spokesman Adam Searle said Landcom should not be dissolved in order to solve an awkward political problem.
“If the government has a problem with the management of an agency, it should address the problem head on,” he said.
He described the corporation as a “vital development agency” that could stimulate the housing market during times of downturn.
STATE POLITICAL REPORTERYoni Bashan is The Australian’s NSW political correspondent. He began his career at The Sunday Telegraph and has won multiple awards for crime writing and specialist investigations. In 2014 he was seconded on a… Read more
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