“Minister Kelly has been at pains to blacken the reputation of Cessnock City Council for the best part of a year, but he chooses to ignore the fact that the people of Cessnock were well ahead of him and in fact turfed out the Labor Party at the 2008 local government elections, said David Shoebridge, Greens spokesperson for Planning.

 “Since that time the new Council has worked with the Division of Local Government (DLG) to improve its standards, and Cessnock Council is now performing up to the standard expected by the DLG.

 “In answers to questions at Budget Estimates in Parliament Mr Kelly said, ‘I am not a fool. I attend (Labor Party) branch meetings at Cessnock and I have spoken to members of the local chamber of commerce. I still say that about half of the complaints I received at that time related to Cessnock City Council.’ “The Minister may well claim not to be a fool, but neither are the people of Cessnock. They can see clearly that complaints from the local Labor Party Branch at Cessnock about the new Council are hardly proper basis for Ministerial intervention.

 “The real story of Cessnock is that Labor and local member Kerry Hickey haven’t got over losing control of Cessnock Council in 2008. In essence they’re saying, as only this Government can, that the people got it wrong.

 “Cessnock is no longer the most complained about council in the Hunter, as it was when Labor was in power, and if one were to sack every government that people didn’t like then perhaps Minister Kelly should have a chat to his Premier and they could sack themselves. In doing so he could be assured of making  a popular decision.

 “If complaints were the sole basis on which to sack a government then this Minster would not be in his job.

 “As for Minister Kelly’s ‘monumental stuff up’ over re-zoning of land at Kitchener, it almost defies belief that the same Minister who has just removed planning powers from Council for apparently not being up to the mark can both preside over a Department that gets the words of the re-zoning wrong, and to compound matters the Minister himself gets the facts wrong in his answer at estimates.

 “Perhaps we should have an inquiry into the competence of the Minister for Planning, said Mr Shoebridge.

 Contact: David Shoebridge on0408 113 952 or Colin Hesse (Media officer) on 02 9230 3030 or 0401 719 124