NSW Govt stonewall about HDC’s Hawes property interests

Save Our Rail is determined to see Baird change his tune. The Newcastle Herald reports that NSW Premier Mike Baird says nothing will derail the December 26 Newcastle rail line removal, despite embarrassing admissions by a government official at a parliamentary inquiry and further revelations about a key player’s Newcastle property interests.

Mr Baird, Planning Minister Pru Goward and the Department of Planning did not respond to questions after the state’s most senior planning official told an inquiry that Mr Hawes had briefed her about the rail line at her first HDC board meeting in September without disclosing that he owned property affected by the removal.

NSW Planning secretary Carolyn McNally was advised to ‘‘read the Newcastle Herald to get an idea of what is going on’’ after telling the parliamentary inquiry into Newcastle planning issues she was unaware of Mr Hawes’s involvement with consultancy work for the HDC before he became general manager in February 2011.

The HDC’s 2008-09 annual report shows his company with wife Jenny, Fintraz Pty Ltd, was paid $48,706 for ‘‘project management’’ of the Newcastle City Centre Renewal Report in May 2009, which included the first formal government recommendation to terminate the rail line at Wickham.

Newcastle City Council documents show another company of which Mr Hawes was a director, Meremen Pty Ltd, sought council approval in 2009 to develop property fronting Beresford and Bellevue streets, near Wickham railway station, and erect ‘‘a 9-storey mixed commercial/residential building containing 40 apartments’’.

The development was approved in May 2010. Mr Hawes disclosed a 25per cent share in the property on the HDC pecuniary interest register in February 2011, when he became general manager. He recorded a doubling of his interest in the property to 50per cent in a register entry on February 9, 2013, which was the first time it noted a ‘‘DA in place for redevelopment’’.

On Friday former Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay said Mr Hawes ‘‘has to resign’’, and revealed she was concerned about potential conflicts of interest when he was appointed general manager.

NSW Greens MP and barrister David Shoebridge, who questioned Ms McNally about her knowledge of Mr Hawes’s property interests during the inquiry, and has already called for Mr Hawes to resign, said the issues raised about the process that led to the rail line removal decision would not be resolved by ‘‘identifying a scapegoat’’.

The government should abandon the December 26 line removal deadline to address the ‘‘serious public trust issues’’ raised by the matter, he said.

Read the full article at the Newcastle Herald.