The proponents of a controversial Fyshwick recycling plant have savaged the Labor government, saying its decision to publicly oppose their proposal on the eve of the ACT election shows an "utter contempt for due process" and will frighten investors and developers looking to do business in the nation's capital.
Capital Recycling Solutions director Adam Perry has conceded his long-planned project was "dead in the water" in its current form after first Labor and then the Canberra Liberals this week declared their opposition to it.
The Barr government has defended its conduct, saying it had been transparent with Mr Perry about concerns it held about the project before he proceeded to lodge an application to build it.
In his first public comments since the shock development, Mr Perry said the company was considering its options to launch legal action against the territory over its handling of the proposal, which he said had been turned into a "political football".
But he said the firm's preferred option was to meet with the next ACT government to discuss ways to revive the project.
Mr Perry said the recycling company was committed to redeveloping the Ipswich Street block in some form, and was even open to the site being used as passenger train station - an idea which it rubbished last year after it was proposed by the Fyshwick Business Association. The block costs the company about $15,000 a month in rates, he said.
But while he has expressed a desire to work constructively to find a solution, Mr Perry has unloaded on the Labor government for what he has described as its politicisation of the planning system.
Labor's declaration that it would seek to block the project if the Barr government was re-elected came while the recycling firm's development application to build the waste processing centre was being considered by the ACT Planning and Land Authority.
The firm only prepared and lodged the application, at a cost of about $100,000, because the government's planning authority had approved its environmental impact statement. The company had already spent three years and more than $3 million fighting to get the project to that stage.
The Canberra Times this week reported City Services Minister Chris Steel had foreshadowed Labor's intention to thwart the project on July 2 - just one day before the environmental report was approved.
Mr Perry, who was optimistic the project would get off the ground after the environmental report was ticked off, said he had no inkling of Labor's intentions before this week. He only become aware of its opposition to the project after The Canberra Times contacted him on Tuesday morning.
"The planning directorate is independent of government and assesses applications according to the law," Mr Perry said.
"So what happens when a proposal is submitted in good faith, within the parameters of the law, and then when an election looms? The politicians threaten to take away the independence of the planning directorate - to politicise it instead.
"This sort of behavior frightens developers and investors.
"We have followed the territory planning process. But now our recently submitted development application has been predetermined, before it is even on public display, by politicians on the eve of an election.
"There is plain lack of procedural fairness, and an utter contempt for due process."
Mr Perry said said the real losers in the saga were those who had faith in the integrity of the ACT's planning system.
"Set aside the merits of the project for a moment, there is a bigger issue here, and that's confidence in the planning system," he said.
"The government is sending a clear message to industry, to developers - that you might go ahead and put in a development application to build something that complies with all of the rules but then if we don't like it, if it looks like costing us votes, we are going to reach into the planning directorate and pull the plug on you anyway - regardless of the planning laws."
Mr Perry said the ACT government had exhibited the same "utter defiance" for planning rules in its bungled assessment of his application to build a rail terminal at the site, which was ultimately overturned in the Supreme Court.
He said he had contacted the offices of Mr Steel and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman in the wake of this week's report to seek a meeting to discuss Labor's position.
The Canberra Times understands Mr Gentleman's chief of staff responded to Mr Perry to advise him that the minister would not meet with proponents which had a development application before the planning authority. Conventions of the pre-election caretaker mode also dictated that a meeting could not take place.
The Canberra Times contacted Mr Gentleman for comment.
A spokeswoman responded on his behalf, saying the minister would not provide commentary on an active development application. That came despite Mr Steel publicly declaring Labor's position on the project on multiple occasions this week.
The spokeswoman said Mr Gentleman had made clear that the acceptance of Capital Recycling Solutions' environmental report did not amount to approval of the project.
"There were several issues identified in the independent review of the report," the spokeswoman said.
"The company had the opportunity to consider and address these concerns before lodging its development application."