Three years after the project was announced, James Packer’s proposed .5 billion hotel and casino complex at Barangaroo in Sydney Harbor remains shrouded in secrecy, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The development originated as “a billionaire’s thought bubble,” the publication reported, and since then has not been subject to public debate. Questions on the VIPs-only project will be limited to written submissions “to bureaucrats who will decide what’s best behind closed doors,” the Herald charged.
In 2013, the government reached an agreement with Packer’s Crown Resorts to develop a high-roller casino with a hotel and luxury apartments. Since then, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has chosen not to open the project to public hearings, which might call into question Crown’s bid for Sydney’s second casino license.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes has ruled against public hearings on a modified plan for the development. Instead, he said, an independent advisory panel will assess the reworked proposal along with other government bodies. The Herald cited documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws that show the government’s first choice to head the panel was former Prime Minister Paul Keating, a known supporter of the Packer plan. When Keating declined, the role was filled by New South Wales government architect Peter Poulet.
The panel’s recommendations will not be binding, and Stokes will not consider the modification to Barangaroo South as a new application—even though Packer’s revised proposal calls for a building 275 meters (902 feet) tall, more than 100 meters higher than the previous plan.