The culture of secrecy surrounding the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority is to be upended under sweeping changes proposed by new MRALandCorp
chairman George McCullagh.

Mr McCullagh said the board of the merged entity wanted to “open the doors” to improve transparency for developers it worked with. The secrecy surrounding almost every element of MRA deliberations was not “hardwired” but part of the organisational culture, he said.

“Change is required,” Mr McCullagh told the Urban Development Institute of Australia State conference yesterday.

“We have to do some work on the culture of planning inside the approval processes of these joint organisations,” he said.

“What we want to do is to bring a much clearer, crisper triage to the front end of the planning cycle so that we can talk to the proponents, developers and investors around the planning framework and . . . start de-risking projects much earlier.”

Mr McCullagh alluded to the controversy surrounding the handling of the $450 million 3 Oceans Iconic Scarborough development rejected by the MRA last year. The MRA was criticised for lacking transparency and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti directed the MRA and 3 Oceans to mediation.

Mr McCullagh yesterday admitted to some trepidation about the merger of the MRA and LandCorp — two “quite different” organisations in very different financial positions.

“The LandCorp balance sheet is in pretty good nick,” he said.

“The MRA has a mountain of debt — not out of its projects but out of the funding model it bought with it.”

He said hopes that legacy debt from the bodies merged to form the MRA five years ago would “miraculously wash away” had not been realised.

“The truth is the debt got worse,” Mr McCullagh said. “It’s incredibly important that the new entity is not crippled from day one.”