Letter 'links Premier to Huntlee development'

CESSNOCK MP Kerry Hickey blasted former planning minister Kristina Keneally on behalf of developer Duncan Hardie in an extraordinary letter linking her alleged "inaction" with "stop[ping] any development in this area".

The November 2009 letter was written two weeks after the Land and Environment Court blocked Hardie Holdings' Huntlee development over an "illegal" NSW government agreement, and one month before Duncan Hardie warned the government he could seek $1 billion damages over its stalled Hunter projects.

Mr Hickey slammed the then planning minister, and now Premier Keneally, for failing to meet with Hardie Holdings over Huntlee, and over the 700-lot Sanctuary Village at Paxton.

Sanctuary Village was "held up by the Department of Planning and has been so for some time", Mr Hickey wrote.

He criticised Ms Keneally over the Huntlee project.

"The Huntlee proponents have stated to me that you want them to relaunch their application, but they won't until a meeting with you as the Minister. But you will not meet with them so here we have a $2 billion project on hold, because the Minister won't meet with the proponents to address any of the problems that have occurred.

"This leaves the Lower Hunter strategy in the quagmire, and really needs to be re-ratified if it's going to be part of this government's strategy."

Mr Hickey also criticised Cessnock City Council for withdrawing its LEP to seek legal advice in the wake of the Land and Environment Court decision, and linked the move to Ms Keneally's alleged "inaction".

"Council is now meeting with their solicitors for advice and the Greens are using your inaction to stop any development in this area," Mr Hickey wrote.

Mr Hickey confirmed yesterday he wrote the letter but said he was "not just blaming Kristina Keneally".

"I blame quite a few people for the problems with development in this area overall," he said.

The Land and Environment Court ruled last year that agreements negotiated by the NSW government and developers were illegal.

Justice David Lloyd described the agreements' land swaps as a "land bribe".

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