Kitchener land zoning revisited after stuff up

The NSW Planning Department will go ahead with a plan to rezone Kitchener land owned by a major Labor Party donor despite an embarrassing rezoning ‘‘stuff-up’’ and contrary advice from the NSW Planning Assessment Commission.

The department phoned Cessnock City Council late last week to say it would re-exhibit a proposal to rezone 34 hectares of Johnson Property Group land from rural to residential.

It had rezoned the Johnson land, and another 76 hectares owned by 10 individual landowners, by mistake in May.

The mistake made paper millionaires of the 10 landowners.

It also embarrassed Planning Minister Tony Kelly when Cessnock Council found the mistake three days after he had told it that Kitchener rezoning delays were one of the reasons he was moving to strip its planning powers.

The embarrassment was compounded when the Newcastle Herald later revealed that the NSW Planning Assessment Commission rejected in January a council recommendation, backed by the NSW Planning Department, that the 110 hectares of private and Johnson land be rezoned to residential.

The commission recommended the whole rezoning be deferred pending some issues being resolved, but its decision was not made available on its website until June.

Council was advised last week that the rezoning plan would be exhibited in the next week.

Cessnock councillor James Ryan described the department mistake as a ‘‘monumental stuff-up and a legal nightmare’’.

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