The approval given to Crown casino to build Melbourne’s tallest skyscraper was “bad planning” and an “unmitigated disaster”, an Andrews government minister has said of his own party’s decision.
Housing Minister Martin Foley lashed his cabinet colleague, Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who approved the 90-level tower for Crown last year without adhering to a standard process.
Crown Resorts stands to save more than $60 million under the special deal.
The government argues the approval is justified because of the $1.75 billion tower’s economic benefits.
Southbank residents whose homes neighbour the Queens Bridge Street site where the tower will rise have been outraged by the way Mr Wynne made the decision.
Mr Foley is the local MP for the seat of Albert Park, which takes in Southbank. He holds the seat by less than 3 per cent from the Liberal Party.
Speaking at the Southbank Residents Association annual meeting last month, Mr Foley described the decision as an “unmitigated disaster”.
In comments recorded by local paper Southbank Local News and not disputed by the housing minister, Mr Foley said Mr Wynne’s decision was “bad planning”.
Indicating he had lost the argument in Cabinet to reject the casino’s plans, Mr Foley said: “In that collective decision making, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.”
Peter Renner is a resident in Freshwater Place, a 63-storey apartment tower built in 2005. Apartments in parts of the tower will lose their commanding views of Port Phillip Bay if Crown’s tower is built.
Mr Renner, chairman of the building’s owners corporation, was at the meeting where Mr Foley’s comments were made. He said they were courageous, and that it was good one minister was speaking out about the Crown plan.
The gambling giant will pay $72 million in fees and taxes for its One Queensbridge Tower on the banks of the Yarra River.
A Melbourne City Council report last year showed Crown would have had to pay $133 million if the project had been assessed under the planning rules brought in by Mr Wynne last year.
The tower will include a hotel and around 700 apartments.
It was initially submitted to the minister as a standard planning application, but was withdrawn and a special path followed because of the project’s economic significance to the state.
The project was approved in March but has not yet commenced.
A spokesman for Mr Wynne said the project would create 4000 jobs, deliver $2.1 billion in economic benefits to the state and include a $100 million package of public benefits paid by the developer and Crown.
These public benefits include $65 million in recognised benefits in improved community facilities in Southbank, and a viewing platform to be built atop the casino skyscraper said to provide a public benefit of $35 million.
The opposition’s planning spokesman, David Davis, said Mr Foley had “let the cat out of the bag on Labor’s poor planning process”. Mr Foley, he said, “clearly has no respect for his colleague the planning minister”.
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