24 April 2014 — As one of her first moves as NSW Planning Minister, Pru Goward has sacked long-time director-general of planning Sam Haddad.
Mr Haddad had served as planning minister for the past nine years, and was an integral part of the NSW’s government’s planning reform agenda, which stalled last year after fierce community opposition.
“The position of Director General of Planning and Infrastructure was abolished as part of setting up a new principal Department of Planning and Environment,” a spokesman for Ms Goward said.
“The new role of Secretary will have wider responsibilities serving three ministers (Planning, Environment and Heritage and Local Government) and will be filled through a competitive merit selection process.
“The government thanks the former director-general, Mr Sam Haddad, for his sustained and substantial long-term service to the state.”
Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said Mr Haddad would be difficult to replace.
“Sam Haddad has been a stable figure leading reform in the planning system in NSW over many years,” Mr Johnson said. “While we understand that the Government is moving in new directions with planning we believe that Sam’s knowledge and calm manner under pressure will be sorely missed.”
However, Mr Johnson praised the incorporation of environment, planning and local government into a new Department of Planning and Environment, which may signal a new attempt to push forward with local government amalgamations.
- See our article NSW mobilising to fight amalgamation push
“While the departure of Sam Haddad is a loss to planning in NSW it is also an opportunity to give new leadership to the whole planning system in the state,” he said.
“There is now an opportunity to rethink the integrated role of state and local planners and the relative roles of the different levels of government.
“The result of reforming planning across local and state government must be to have a system that supports the inevitable population growth that the state will need to plan for. This big picture approach to planning for the future sustainability of the state must not be railroaded by narrow focused local action groups.”
The “narrow focused local action groups” Mr Johnson referred to is the Better Planning Network, which has more than 420 member groups opposed to the NSW Government’s planning reform legislation.
BPN convenor Corinne Fisher congratulated Ms Goward’s decision to restructure the department and remove Mr Haddad.
“Responsibility for the recent debacle that was the NSW Government’s attempt to reform our planning system must be shared between Mr Haddad and former Minister for Planning and now Attorney-General Brad Hazzard,” said Ms Fisher.
“Mr Haddad has been director-general of planning during a period that saw the introduction of the notorious Part 3A of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, right through to the recent, disaster-prone NSW Planning Bill 2013.
“During this period, public confidence in our planning system plummeted.”
Ms Fisher said she hoped the changes would mean a fresh start for planning in NSW.