A motion in NSW parliament to place developer-threatened Currawong Beach on the State and National Heritage registers has been passed by 22 votes to 16.

In a rare unholy alliance, the Liberals, Nationals, two Christian Democrats and two Shooters Party MPs joined the four Greens to defeat Labor in the upper house.

What a spectacle: the conservatives and arch-conservatives voting with the Greens to protect the Unions NSW-owned holiday venue from Labor-backed developers, South African Allen Linz and Russian Eduard Litver.

Moved by Greens MP Sylvia Hale, the motion noted that the National Trust of Australia (NSW division), the Heritage Council of NSW and the Australian Institute of Architects all support the heritage listing of the beachside retreat which has been used by trade unionists since the end of World War Two.

The fate of Currawong, surrounded by Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on Sydney’s far northern beaches, is now in the hands of new Planning Minister Kristina Keneally who last month took over from Frank Sartor, a strong supporter of the development.

Ms Hale told MPs the Currawong saga involved “a web of overlapping relationships”.

They involved the “two developers, ALP insider David Tanevski, the then head of Unions NSW and ALP MLC-in-waiting, John Robertson, Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, and ALP Senator Mark Arbib.

Mr Linz co-owns KWC Capital, which donated $44,000 to the ALP in a key period in 2006 and 2007. The deal to sell Currawong to Linz and Litver’s development company was concluded in February 2007. NSW Electoral Funding Authority returns reveal that Mr Linz’s KWC Capital donated $15,000 to the NSW ALP on 12 February 2007 and a further $24,000 just two weeks later on 2 March 2007–money that was no doubt very handy for the ALP in the final weeks of its campaign for the 24 March 2007 State election.

No doubt the Government will yet again claim that these exceptionally well-timed donations to the ALP were not accompanied by any commitments in relation to Currawong and that it is sheer coincidence that six months later Frank Sartor determined that Currawong was of such State significance that he should call it in under his notorious part 3A powers.

This gives us the extraordinary proposition that Currawong is of such State significance that it should be removed from the control of Pittwater Council but it’s not significant enough to be given the protection of heritage listing.

Ms Hale quoted Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly who gave this brutal verdict on the development process:

“If that sounds like a sweaty old locker room to you, try this. Between them all, they secured Currawong for Linz and Litver at about half the price of other bids — cheating the public out of both access to it and $15 million-odd in recompense.”

Next month’s Cabinet decision on Currawong will indicate whether Premier Nathan Rees has changed course or whether Labor is still the lapdog of the powerful development lobby.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey