Senior planner Katie Joyner stood down over $3.8m home ‘not involved’ in rezoning discussions

A senior NSW planning bureaucrat stood down amid parliamentary allegations she used insider information for the purchase of a $3.8m home “was not involved” in direct discussions, the chief planning department boss has revealed in budget estimates.

Earlier this month, Liberal MP Alister Henskens alleged under parliamentary privilege that a senior planning department official used insider information to purchase a property near an area set to be rezoned under the Transport Oriented Development (TOD) scheme.

The comments were referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption; however, no formal investigation has been launched.

The individual was later revealed by The Daily Telegraph to be the Department of Planning’s director for the City of Sydney and Eastern District, Katie Joyner, who purchased a $3.8m home in Gordon, on Sydney’s north shore.

The acquisition was made in August last year, prior to the NSW government’s highly anticipated announcement of the scheme in December.

During budget estimates on Tuesday, Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure secretary Kiersten Fishburn said Ms Joyner was “not involved” in the work around determining which suburbs would be subjected to increased height and density under the TOD scheme.

The changes would allow for the development of new housing in areas within 400m of identified train stations, with Gordon listed as one of the 31 zones.

While Ms Joyner has been stood down pending further investigation, she has rejected any claims of wrongdoing.

In a statement earlier this month, she categorically denied the allegations made under parliamentary privilege.

“I have at all times acted with the utmost propriety. I am seeking legal advice about what I consider to be defamatory statements made against me and published in The Daily Telegraph intend to exercise my full legal rights against those who have defamed me,” she said.

“As the matter has now been referred to the ICAC, it is inappropriate for me to make any further comment at this stage.”

It was also revealed during budget estimates that public servants involved in discussions were required to sign additional probity measures, including confidentiality agreements that were completed in August.

Ms Fishburn said the extra safeguards, like limiting access to files and information, were introduced during the development of the scheme due to the “sensitive nature” of the work.

“Government officials who were making suggestions on site selection were requested to sign a separate confidentiality agreement prepared in consultation with the program’s independent probity adviser,” she said.

“As site selection was narrowed down, files were also moved to secure storage (and) limited access and information was shared internal to government only on an as-needed basis.”

Meetings notes with stakeholders during the program’s development were also shared on an “as-needed basis,” she said, and members were advised of their conflict of interest obligations.

While NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully didn’t directly address Mr Henskens’ allegations, he questioned the validity of the claims.

“I still don’t know to this day if he’s even bothered to report it to the ICAC. However, if he hasn’t, he should be asked why he hasn’t,” Mr Scully said.

Ms Fishburn also didn’t address the claims directly. She said she could “certainly assure” the committee that “we have been focused on conflict of interest declarations over the last fortnight” since the allegations were made.

Opposition housing spokesman Scott Farlow said the allegations still raised “serious questions … with respect to the activities of the TOD around the Gordon area”.

“Those are appropriate matters for the ICAC to be investigating, and we will also be looking through the TOD inquiry at the processes that were put in place by the Department of Planning,” he said.

Mr Farlow said there were still “unanswered questions” over how many people were involved in discussions, how many disclosures were made and any updates to disclosures by deputy secretaries.

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