NSW Planning Minister Kristina Keneally has trampled over community objections in two major development approvals this week — she has given the go ahead for a gun club shooting range on the Southern Highlands and approved concept plans for a new township of 20,000 at Huntlee in the Hunter Valley.

While Premier Nathan Rees and his Cabinet are determined to lift the State out of its economic torpor, there is an electoral cost if the projects cause anger and resentment among voters.

In the case of the Hill Top Shooting Complex, more than $5.1 million in taxpayers’ money will be spent on the project.

Upper House Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who has announced she will quit NSW politics to seek a seat in the Senate, said:

The approval of this shooting complex in the face of widespread community opposition is another example of the unhealthy relationship between Labor and the Shooters Party.

It looks like another political fix between Labor and the Shooters Party. The NSW government gets the support of two crucial Shooters Party votes in the Upper House while the people of the southern highlands get a shooting range most of them don’t want.

Shadow planning minister Brad Hazzard today weighed into the Huntlee approval process saying:

State Labor has shown yet again it is committed to ignoring community concerns and making planning decisions that lack local council support.

The history of the approval of the Huntlee town development involves numerous meetings behind closed doors and tame local Labor MPs failing to voice the community’s concerns.

It is alleged that major Labor figures have been involved in getting the development to the starting line.

Since taking the planning portfolio Keneally has rolled back many of Frank Sartor’s improvements to the system and, quite inadvertently, earned the applause of the developers’ lobby group known as the Urban Task Force headed by former Eddie Obeid chief of staff, Aaron Gadiel.

She has abolished the Growth Centres Commission, transferred the Office of Strategic Land Assets to the State Property Authority (Treasury), gutted the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority, established a separate authority to be in charge of the massive Barangaroo project on Sydney Harbour and sidelined the Planning Assessment Commission.

Her executive rulings have attracted the approving attention of right-wing Labor and the developers, and she has reportedly started taking elocution lessons to tame her American accent just in case they come knocking to offer her the leadership.

Peter Fray

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