FORMER NSW Department of Planning secretary Carolyn McNally attempted to head off weeks of damning Newcastle Herald reports about the state's mining regulatory processes late last year by announcing a major external audit.
Day after day the Herald reports, and allegations contained within them, featured in NSW Parliamentary debates. Four former department executives came forward with allegations the department had a "be silent or be sacked" culture. They detailed significant matters they were trying to address at the point they lost their jobs.
The four included former mining titles operations manager Rebecca Connor, who was sacked shortly after making a protected disclosure about the department's woeful handling of a NSW farmer's objection to a mine application over his land.
Ms McNally said the department's division of resources and geosciences, based in Maitland and overseeing mining titles, leases and licences, "does important work and I want to ensure the people of NSW know we are acting in their best interests".
The audit process "will ensure the community can continue to trust in the work we are doing".
She appointed former Hunter top cop and Resources Regulator Lee Shearer to oversee the independent performance audit of the division's procedures and processes.
It was expected to consider "the organisational framework, systems and processes of the division and identify structural, systemic, cultural, skills or other issues that may adversely affect the work of the division".
Ms McNally is gone. She was one of the first of the state's top executives to lose her post after Gladys Berejiklian's Government was returned to Macquarie Street in March. On Tuesday Ms Shearer was gone as well, with no public explanation why and questions about the status of the independent audit.
It is hard to see where Ms Shearer has put a foot wrong.
The Resources Regulator has demonstrated a willingness to stand up to mining companies, particularly where workplace safety is concerned. There is greater public accountability, with decisions and actions clearly available on its website. And Ms Shearer's win last week as Telstra's NSW businesswoman of the year leaves the public wondering, what is going on?