Baird denies giving Barangaroo views away

Former NSW premier Mike Baird met with James Packer three months before his government made an agreement that later paved the way for the billionaire's Crown to secure major concessions for its Barangaroo development.

A parliamentary inquiry into potential bias in the multibillion-dollar Sydney harbourside project heard on Friday one of the issues on the agenda for the February 2015 meeting was valuable "sight lines" from the precinct.

Mr Baird said there was "limited discussion" about sight lines at the meeting, where Mr Packer expressed "angst" at the time it had taken the government to resolve various issues.

In May that year, the government's Barangaroo authority agreed with Crown and the south precinct's other developer, Lendlease, that it would negotiate any changes to the plans that would affect views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

That agreement led to a later Supreme Court case the NSW government lost, resulting in Crown and Lendlease getting guaranteed views in addition to extra space and other concessions as part of a secret 2019 settlement.

Mr Baird, who was premier from April 2014 until January 2017, denied the government "gave the sight lines away" and said the companies didn't get the "unfettered access" to views they wanted.

"For Crown and Lendlease, I was not on their Christmas card list," he told the inquiry.

Mr Baird also said he wasn't involved in any discussion with Mr Packer or Crown about the height of the casino operator's Barangaroo tower, which was controversially increased from its original 170 metres to 275m in 2015.

Labor's Anthony D'Adam said: "We give them an extra 100m of height, we give them unimpeded sight lines in a contractually binding arrangement. I'm not clear what we get as a public."

The parliamentary committee is looking into any bias during negotiations between the government, Lendlease and Crown.

It is also investigating why the Barangaroo Delivery Authority appeared to have sold harbour sight lines to both Lendlease-Crown and Grocon.

Earlier, the inquiry heard the confidential 2019 deed between the government, Lendlease and Crown to settle disputes over delays and sight lines gave them a "development bonus" including 8000sq m of extra floor space for one Lendlease tower and other favourable terms.

Grocon, which won the tender for the adjacent Barangaroo central project but went into voluntary administration in 2019, said the extra floor space alone was worth $300 million.

Infrastructure NSW chief executive Simon Draper said the deal was struck to avoid a settlement, which could have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Our objective was to avoid the taxpayer of NSW having to sign a big cheque to Lendlease or Crown, but rather to find things that were of value to them but didn't cost the state money," he said, adding then premier Gladys Berejiklian approved the deal.

Grocon chief executive Daniel Grollo accused the government of unconscionable conduct in selling the same sight lines twice and refusing to give his company certainty over views from Barangaroo central.

He said his company was repeatedly told it would get a notice of sight lines - essential for selling parts of the development - but it never eventuated.

Grocon, which is suing the state government over the project, eventually sold its rights to junior partner Aqualand.

The new developer was given a sight line notice the day after taking over the project, but development of that section of Barangaroo remains stalled after a series of disputes over building heights and their impact on views.

Mr Draper denied selling sight lines twice, saying Grocon accepted the uncertainty surrounding views and building heights when it bid to build the central precinct.

"The idea that we've got some sort of cozy relationship with Lendlease or Aqualand or somebody else is just demonstrating wrong," he said.

The inquiry's report is due by 20 December.