THE Labor mayor of Fairfield and local MP, Nick Lalich, has lobbied the state government to allow a controversial land swap involving part of a public park and an ALP donor, council documents reveal.Despite a council resolution that property owned by the donor be compulsorily acquired, Cr Lalich asked the Planning Department to rezone part of Adam’s Reserve at Canley Vale so the council could swap a part for John Hui Zhang’s property next door.The rezoning, which the government had already rejected, would allow for a trade in which Mr Zhang’s new property would be worth an estimated $425,000 more than his present one. The council has been negotiating for seven years to acquire the block to build a road. But Mr Zhang wanted a land swap and refused an outright sale. After the rezoning was rejected last year by the previous planning minister, Kristina Keneally, the council resolved in February to compulsorily acquire the property.Cr Lalich, also the state member for Cabramatta, declared an interest and left the meeting before the resolution was considered. Several councillors, including two Labor ones, said they had considered council’s decision final.But Cr Lalich instructed the general manager, Alan Young, to urge the Planning Department to reconsider its decision not to rezone the park land.Cr Lalich said in a statement that the resolution to compulsorily acquire the land ”did not prohibit the making of a representation” on the rezoning.The property, at 61 Canley Vale Road, has been valued by the council at $875,000 but if the swap had been approved the owner would have obtained land worth an estimated $1.3 million.Cr Lalich denied his actions were designed to benefit Mr Zhang. He said a swap was preferable to forced acquisition and would cost less.”My preference for the land swap … is because the financial outcome to the ratepayers of my city is massively in their favour compared to the cost of only acquiring the property,” he said.Cr Lalich previously declared he had received a $1600 political donation from Mr Zhang and left council meetings when acquisition of the land was discussed.He did not deny the swap would have given a potential $425,000 benefit to the owner of 61 Canley Vale Road but said the May council meeting retrospectively endorsed his actions in pursuing the swap.Mr Young told the May council meeting he wrote to the department at the mayor’s request and in the belief that, despite the resolution on compulsory acquisition, the council still wanted the rezoning pursued.Mr Zhang declined to talk to the Herald yesterday.When the mayor’s actions were disclosed to the meeting in May, councillors resolved to reaffirm the compulsory acquisition and instructed Mr Young to withdraw the request to the Planning Department.A Planning spokesman confirmed that no action had been taken on the letters and the rezoning would not go ahead.
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