THE state government must "fix their mistake" and finalise the buy-back of the Mambo Wanda Wetlands before the pre-election caretaker period starts next Friday, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said.
The caretaker period will begin after the Legislative Assembly is dissolved on March 1 and usually means no significant new decisions or initiatives, appointments, or contractual undertakings should be made.
“Right from the start, the Liberal government knew that our community strongly opposed this sale... but the government went ahead anyway," Ms Washington said.
“Next the Liberals tried to say the sale was a ‘mistake’, and then they claimed they’d buy back the land at huge expense to the taxpayer.
"Now we’re one week away from the beginning of caretaker conventions and the land still hasn’t been returned to public hands.
"If it’s not done in the next week, it’ll be clear this government has been unable to fix the mess they created and they’re hoping people won’t notice."
A Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said in a statement to the Newcastle Herald: "Caretaker conventions do not impact ongoing processes and negotiation with the landowner is still ongoing."
The government sold the six hectares at Salamander Bay despite community outcry for $250,000 through a June 2016 online auction to Maitland developer Paul Unicomb, who applied to build housing on the site.
The parcel zoned E2 environmental conservation is a habitat for the endangered koala population. Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot Macdonald said in September that year the sale was a mistake.
Port Stephens councillor Jaimie Abbott moved a motion in December 2017 seeking government funding for the council to acquire the site to ensure ratepayers would not be required to pay to buy back the land – and pursue compulsory acquisition if necessary.
Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said last year the department sent Mr Unicomb a letter on August 30 "regarding good faith negotiations and compulsory acquisition" and had entered six months of negotiations.