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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release July 2004

What a tangled web...

Hi Members

Piers Ackerman in The Daily Telegraph reveals more facts on the donations issue. His article is reproduced below, but with repeated references to particular people removed as SOS is concerned with the broad question of political honesty and the distraction relating to the activities of individual personalities clouds the issue. The subject was also aired on Quentin Dempster's Stateline program last night when he interviewed Minister Dianne Beamer.

All-star cast but project flopped
July 20, 2004

WITH all sympathy due to the retailers and employees facing hardship at the bodgy Orange Grove outlet centre, it was a dodgy operation from the beginning and the mix of Labor mates, Labor councils and ALP factional brawls was always going to come undone.

The initial development consent from Liverpool Council was most dubious and the later consent was unlawful as was the use of the site as a retail outlet centre. The problems have been apparent and growing for more than a decade.

The NSW Government must however uphold the findings of the Land and Environment Court and the Court of Appeals or it, too, will be charged with bending the law to suit political donors and be seen to be upholding the plays of people like convicted killer and former Fairfield councillor Phuong Canh Ngo.

Local government in NSW has long been under a cloud and the council has a long history of bad management.

The Orange Grove development first came to Liverpool Council in March, 1991, when developer Nabil Gazal's company Jokona lodged an application for rezoning of 12ha in the Orange Grove industrial estate, which had been used for the manufacture of caravans.

Minutes of the June 4, 1991, meeting show that application was refused.

Councillor XXXXX did receive a donation of $3000 from Viscount Caravans P/L, one of Mr Gazal's companies, on August 22, 1991, and a further $1500 from Moona Plains P/L, one of Eddie Obeid's companies, on September 10, 1991.

On October 14, 1991, when Mr XXXXX was mayor, Jokona's development application was again before council. This time it resolved that a draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) be prepared and exhibited.

The site, which had a restricted industrial zoning preventing it being used for industries generating traffic movements on and off the highway. The rezoning would permit bus and truck depots, service stations, restaurants, showrooms and saleyards, which all generate traffic.

THE only development proposed was for a 24-hour Ampol service station employing 50 people to look after truck refuelling, a restaurant and a convenience store.

Contemporary reports from the local newspaper show an extraordinary row then developed with more than 500 residents objecting to the rezoning proposal but being overruled by Liverpool Council.

The council's development committee resolved to proceed with the LEP. Mayor XXXXX voted against his own rescission motion, thereby gagging debate.

The Liverpool Leader reported that Liberal and Independent members had the numbers to overturn the rezoning but "they still lost because Mayor XXXXX, who chaired the meeting, blocked motion after motion, from the group."

It said Mr XXXXX claimed rescinding the rezoning would leave the council liable to compensation claims from developer Nabil Gazal.

Mr XXXXX quit the council in September 1994, but as far as the people of Liverpool went and the future employees of the Orange Grove development, the structural flaws were firmly in place.

Liverpool ratepayers were slugged an average $40-a-year increase to meet the deficit from Mr XXXX's reign.

The dubious rezoning pushed through by Mr XXXX for the isolated site was, to use an analogy he would be familiar with, but the first rung on a ladder of dysfunctionality which has brought those now at the outlet site to their present hapless state.

Mr Gazal kept insisting on increasing the scope of the development and using the support of other Labor identities in local government, such as councillor Ngo to overcome council staff's objections.

Ngo was instrumental in overturning and withdrawing a seven-part submission lodged by council staff with the council against a multi-screen cinema, planned for the site by Mr Gazal.

According to Mr Gazal, Ngo lobbied former Liverpool councillor (now Planning Minister) Craig Knowles for him and helped Labor MPs Joe Tripodi and Reba Meagher win their pre-selections.

Another former councillor and Mr XXXX's mayoral deputy, Alex Sanchez, says Ngo told him to "name your figure" in talks on the Orange Grove rezoning.

It's a tangled web of too many political donations and too many favours which enmeshes Mr XXXXX, Mr Sanchez (now working for the Opposition leader), Mr Knowles, Mr Tripodi, Ms Meagher, Ms Beamer, and (Federal ALP member for Fowler) Julia Irwin, among others.

It deserves an airing before ICAC, but that too might present a conflict.

The state of affairs of political donations being so entwined with development approval is humiliating for the citizens of New South Wales. Save Our Suburbs will continue the fight against these degrading activities.

Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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