Local activists scored a resounding victory against over-development on August 31, when the NSW Land and Environment Court ruled against a proposal to build 600 houses in the small coastal village of Catherine Hill Bay, near Newcastle.
It also said further 187 houses at nearby Gwandalan could not be built.
Justice David Lloyd didn't mention the $143,500 donation made by the developer Rosecorp to the ALP before the last state election, but in his ruling he described the consent process as "biased", and a "land bribe in exchange for rezoning and associated development".
Last September, then ALP planning minister Frank Sartor signed a binding deed with the developer that "committed" him to look favourably on the development, before the proposal had even been submitted for approval under the Planning Act.
The decision is likely to set a precedent to prevent development approvals that involve land swaps, where developers receive government approvals in exchange for handing over private land for conservation purposes.
The battle against the Catherine Hill Bay development is not over, however. Planning minister Kristina Keneally has promised Rosecorp it could still resubmit its plan for assessment by the Independent Planning Assessment Commission.