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Newcastle Herald

Plan back in for Huntlee

Date: 18/08/2010
Words: 289
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 7
DEVELOPERS behind the $1.8 billion Huntlee development, near Branxton, today begin their second tilt at getting it approved after a court last year found elements of the project unlawful, a decision they said cost them at least $40 million.

Proponent the LWP property group refused to show the Newcastle Herald a copy of its new study, expected to be lodged today, that seeks state significant project status for Huntlee.

The initial proposal for Huntlee collapsed after the NSW Land and Environment Court ruled that memorandums of understanding between the state government and developers, involving conservation land offsets, could be deemed "land bribes".

The ruling was in relation to an arrangement at Catherine Hill Bay but a similar agreement was in place for Huntlee.

LWP property group managing director Danny Murphy said yesterday that his company could have walked away from Huntlee.

"We all lost a lot of money. For our group it was $40 million," Mr Murphy said.

However, the group found a new investor, the Kahlbetzer agribusiness family and its Twynam Group, who have joined LWP in a restructured company, Huntlee Pty Ltd.

Developer Duncan Hardie is out of the development and another former backer, Lehman Brothers, was a casualty of the global financial crisis.

Mr Murphy said it was now "unclear" how the government would handle part 3A (state significant) laws.

Huntlee opponent, Cessnock councillor James Ryan, said the development had not changed and was still not in the public interest.

The start of work on the Hunter Expressway is important for the development.

The expressway links directly with the proposed Huntlee, removing the need for an expensive connecting road, which the Roads and Traffic Authority said was necessary for the development to proceed.

If approved, Huntlee will have 7500 dwellings.

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