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More concerns over the NSW planning process -

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SHANE MCLEOD: To New South Wales where another well connected Labor figure says he met with state
planning officials and the minister to lobby on behalf of clients seeking approval for their
projects.

The Greens say the entire planning process has fallen under the sway of developers and influence
peddlers who do their bidding.

But the former federal Labor MP turned lobbyist and planning lawyer Gary Punch is one who says his
role in the planning process has been entirely appropriate.

Timothy McDonald reports.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The Greens and community groups have long contended the system is broken, and
favours cashed up developers over community groups.

SYLVIA HALE: Labor mates are certainly very instrumental and important when it comes to getting
decisions that favour significant developers.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: State Greens MP Sylvia Hale sits on an inquiry into planning decisions
surrounding land at Badgerys Creek in Sydney's west.

The inquiry was convened after the death of developer Michael McGurk, who was shot outside his
Sydney home.

Allegations had emerged that McGurk had a tape which suggested potentially corrupt dealings between
developers and politicians.

Those allegations were hotly denied but the Greens say the committee shone a spotlight on
politicians who leave Parliament and then use their influence to become lobbyists.

It emerged from a submission that the former federal Labor identity Graeme Richardson met with the
head of the planning department Sam Haddad over Badgerys Creek.

Now, another former Labor identity says he too met with Mr Haddad, although for a different
project.

Planning lawyer and lobbyist Gary Punch is the former federal Labor MP for the electorate of
Barton, in Sydney's south.

He says it's normal for lobbyists and planners to meet with the department and that's as it should
be.

GARY PUNCH: You know, this notion that somehow we can simply put something on paper and put it in a
mail box and that will suffice for the planning system to function is complete nonsense.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The problem, according to the Greens, is that it's all too often former Labor
identities who use their contacts to secure political access and press their case.

Ms Hale says it makes the system skewed in favour of developers.

SYLVIA HALE: They have an access which is denied to ordinary members of the community. It's not so
much often their professional qualifications as the fact that they know people and they can
presumably pressure people to do favours, at least to give them very strong entry.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Gary Punch is well connected in Labor circles but he's also a planning lawyer.

And even though he's met with the Planning Minister Kristina Keneally at least once, he says
there's no problem with the way things are working.

GARY PUNCH: Yes, I've had one meeting with the minister and that principally concerned a matter
which was very close to her electorate. So, you know, the role for the minister, in the New South
Wales planning system, is much, much less than it has ever been and I think what you're seeing is a
striving by the people who run the planning system to embed in it the various levels of
professionalism that make up the planning mosaic.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The former planning minister Frank Sartor says there's nothing wrong with
developers meeting with department heads or even ministers.

But he says if they have no particular technical expertise, it adds nothing to the process for them
to discuss the merits of a proposal.

Sylvia Hale says she agrees, and moreover says there needs to be public scrutiny.

SYLVIA HALE: Just refuse to talk about it, perhaps that's the appropriate code of conduct that
should be adopted by those people. And if the merits are discussed then that should be made
publically known.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: But Gary Punch says the system isn't broken and doesn't need to be fixed.

GARY PUNCH: We have public declaration on registered lobbyists, we have a range of protocols that
operate within the Department of Planning, and of course, what it really comes down to is a good
old fashioned note-taking that goes on from both sides at any meeting.

So I think these issues have very largely been dealt with.

SHANE MCLEOD: That's lobbyist and planning lawyer Gary Punch ending the report from Timothy
McDonald.