New Planning Minister Pru Goward has put her immediate stamp on her new department by sacking its long-term chief.
Sam Haddad has been dumped in a shake-up that also merges the departments of planning and environment.
“The position of Director-General of Planning and Infrastructure was abolished as part of setting up a new principal Department of Planning and Environment,’’ a spokesman said.
‘‘The new role of secretary will have wider responsibilities, serving three ministers (planning, environment and heritage and local government), and will be filled through a competitive merit selection process.
‘‘The government thanks the former director-general, Mr Sam Haddad, for his sustained and substantial long-term service to the state.”
The opposition's planning spokesman, Luke Foley, said Mr Haddad had become a scapegoat for the government's failure to pass its planning bill.
"Meanwhile, Brad Hazzard moves on to become the state's Attorney-General despite the unmitigated disaster of his attempt to deliver the state a new planning act," Mr Foley said.
"I don't think the public servant should have to pay the price for what was a political shambles."
The environment portfolio has existed inside the Department of Premier and Cabinet since the O'Farrell government abolished the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water soon after it came to power in 2011.
Mr Foley said the new department structure meant "any voice for environmental protection will be muzzled by the government's 'development at all costs' mindset when it comes to planning policy.
"There should be a stand-alone environment department so that there can be a robust voice within the NSW government for environmental protection," he said.
It was a view echoed by Greens MP John Kaye, who nonetheless said there would be communities celebrating the departure of Mr Haddad.
''Our concern is that Pru Goward will use this opportunity to make the office of the secretary compliant to her will,'' he said.
A 2010 ICAC inquiry into the murder of businessman Michael McGurk looked into meetings between lobbyists and planning officials, including Mr Haddad.
The inquiry ultimately found no evidence for allegations of corruption in the Department of Planning, despite hearing developer Ron Medich had boasted of having a direct line to the top bureaucrat.
The ICAC found that Mr Medich, who has pleaded not guilty to Mr McGurk's murder, was overstating his influence.
Then premier Kristina Keneally said the findings "clearly exonerated" the planning department.
With James Robertson