NSW MP John Sidoti allegedly tried to influence council over family-linked properties, Icac told

A New South Wales MP has been accused of seeking to influence local councillors and council staff to make planning decisions in order to benefit his family’s property holdings, an inquiry by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog has heard.

John Sidoti, the former minister for sport who announced earlier this month that he would sit on the crossbench pending the investigation, is accused of hiring town planners to lobby Canada Bay council during a review of zoning regulations in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Five Dock.

On Monday, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption held public hearings into the allegations against Sidoti. Icac is investigating whether Sidoti sought to “improperly influence” local councillors and staff, and failed “to make a number of pecuniary interest disclosures contrary to his obligations”.

Sidoti has previously denied the allegations against him, and the rezoning he had allegedly sought did not go ahead.

In his opening address, the counsel assisting , Rob Ranken, said the commission would investigate whether Sidoti had sought to improperly influence four Liberal party councillors to support a rezoning effort that would have benefited properties owned by interests linked to his family.

“Mr Sidoti regularly raised with the Liberal councillors issues concerning the urban design study and associated planning proposals, particularly the exclusion of the Waterview Street site,” Ranken said.

“Mr Sidoti arranged and attended meetings with Liberal councillors … discussing upcoming consideration by the council of the urban design study and associated planning proposals, how the councillors might decide the issue and, on occasion, what motion they should move.”

Ranken said that following an urban design study in 2013, Canada Bay council decided to rezone some areas in the Five Dock town centre to allow for higher-density development.

However, areas outside the “town centre core” were to remain zoned as medium-residential.

Ranken told Icac that despite overwhelming community opposition to higher-density development in Five Dock and the belief among council planning staff that there was “little public benefit” in increasing building heights, Sidoti told a chamber of commerce meeting that the development density in Five Dock was “far too low”.

Icac heard Sidoti’s family had owned one property inside the so-called “core” of the town centre, but that properties behind it were to remain medium density.

Ranken told the inquiry that in 2014, 2015 and 2017 companies associated with the MP’s family purchased properties adjoining the original property, in the medium-density-zoned area.

Icac heard that in July 2014 Sidoti engaged town planners to begin making plans for a development proposal for the original site, which also included options related to the development of the adjoining sites.

At the same time, town planners began lobbying the council to change zoning rules on the adjoining sites.

Icac heard that while Sidoti’s family did not get the zoning changes the planners had pushed for, changes were made to remove a heritage listing on one of the properties purchased by a company linked to his family.

That change occurred a year after a meeting between Sidoti, the town planners he hired, the Canada Bay mayor, Angelo Tsirekas, and council staff.

The inquiry is continuing.

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