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Newcastle Herald

Compliance questioned

Date: 25/08/2010
Words: 277
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 14
CESSNOCK City Council could consider legal action against Planning Minister Tony Kelly's decision this week to restrict the council's planning role by appointing an independent planning panel.

Council will decide tonight whether to seek legal advice about Mr Kelly's move and if it complied with the requirements of a 2007 government order covering the appointment of planning panels for unsatisfactory council performance.

Under the order Mr Kelly is required to gazette heads of consideration for appointing a panel, and take them into account.

The heads of consideration include Local Government Department reviews or reports.

Mr Kelly was criticised in early May when he asked the council to show cause why he should not strip its planning powers in the same week that Local Government Department investigators were at the council conducting a review.

The review followed a formal Local Government Department investigation of the council in late 2008. Documents from a NSW upper house call for papers revealed the Planning Department asked the investigators to include planning issues in the review.

The department's draft report is expected in the next month.

In his urgency motion seeking a legal opinion Cr James Ryan said it was reasonable for the council to ask whether Mr Kelly had taken the review into account.

"The minister is required under the act to consider these heads of consideration, and any report or review by the Local Government Department is one of them, and yet there's no mention of it in the reasons he's sent to the council for making this move," Cr Ryan said.

A spokesman for Mr Kelly's office said he "sought the concurrence" of the Local Government Minister before appointing the panel.

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