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NSW transport agency thrown into chaos amid chief’s exit, ICAC referral

Following the revelations, Transport Minister Andrew Constance referred the toxic land deal to both the Auditor General and the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The NSW upper house also voted in favour of referring it to ICAC.

In announcing Mr Staples’ departure, Mr Constance said: “now is the time for a new focus on delivering our record infrastructure program”.

Rodd Staples sudden departure as head of Transport for NSW.

Rodd Staples sudden departure as head of Transport for NSW.Credit:Wolter Peeters

His exit comes a day after the state budget in which the government set aside billions of dollars for transport projects, including metro rail lines that Mr Staples was regarded to be a key architect.

The state budget all but confirmed that the government has abandoned stage two of the Paramatta light rail line. Questions were also raised about the proposed Northern Beaches Link after it received no mention in Tuesday’s budget.

Mr Staples took over from Tim Reardon – now head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet – as Transport for NSW secretary at the start of 2018 but has worked in the department for 15 years.

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Mr Staples was head of the Sydney Metro rail projects at the time of the controversial land deal involving 6 Grand Avenue, Camellia. He also sat on Transport for NSW’s executive committee, which met on Mondays to discuss matters including transactions such as the Camellia land purchase.

At the time, Mr Reardon was chair of Transport for NSW’s Finance and Investment Committee, which held an “out of session” to approve the acquisition of the Camellia site for $53.5 million, as well as pay the costs of remediating the land.

Opposition transport spokesman Chris Minns said Mr Constance needed to make clear why Mr Staples had resigned.

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“The Department of Transport is in utter chaos this afternoon. The secretary has left one day after the NSW budget has been handed down, we’ve got cancelled projects and a secret land deal that should be the subject of an ICAC inquiry,” he said.

Labor leader Jodi McKay said Mr Staples’ exit was “swift and not planned”.

Mr Constance said the announcement about Mr Staples’ departure was “separate from the issues” concerning the Camellia land deal.

The government opposed Labor’s moves in the lower house on Wednesday night to refer the land deal to ICAC.

Mr Constance also met the state’s Auditor-General this week to discuss a separate review he ordered of Transport for NSW’s purchase of the Camellia site. That review will include the purchase and costs of remediation at the property next to Rosehill Racecourse.

In an email to staff, Mr Staples said he was sad to say goodbye.

“Transport is in my blood and is part of my family’s story, with my grandfather helping to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Now almost 100 years later, I’ve had the privilege of being part of this great organisation for over 15 years,” he said.

Mr Staples said he would work through the transition arrangements over the coming months.

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