A former project manager working on Stockland's Brooks Reach subdivision at Horsley has been convicted and fined $30,000 over fraudulent land contamination information lodged as part of the subdivision bid.
Kate McMullen claimed she submitted the bogus documents - verifying the land had been cleared as non-contaminated and fit for habitation - in an "extended moment of panic", partly because she feared "failing at the job" and letting down women in a "male dominant industry".
McMullen was the project manager for global development firm Arcadis, which was engaged by Stockland for its 160-lot McPhail residential subdivision stages 14-16.
The false documents she submitted claimed the "management and remediation of coal wash, asbestos, and imported materials" had been cleared - but this had neither been verified by the company's environment consultant, nor audited as required.
In a Land and Environment Court judgment last week, Justice Rachel Pepper sentenced McMullen, who pleaded guilty to giving false or misleading information to the Environment Protection Authority.
in March 2017 McMullen had submitted a "subdivision application certificate" to Wollongong City Council for four stages of development, but was told it would be deferred pending more information - a Site Contamination Validation Report and Site Auditor's Statement.
She created these herself, using a form from the internet and adding some details.
McMullen said after the environment consultant, JBS&G, had refused to "validate material being imported into the premises", she intended to "drown" the council in documents "so that it would not notice that a SAS was not submitted as part of the application".
The council proceeded to allow the subdivision to be registered and the land to be sold.
McMullen's undoing was when she told an environmental consultant, who was to do the audit, that it had already been submitted.
McMullen had said her judgment was impaired by iron deficiency and the stress of her job, so she decided the bogus statements were the "least worst outcome".
"In reference to worse outcomes, she meant 'admitting failure', with respect to 'achieving timeframes, managing the project and failing at the job basically'," Justice Pepper stated.
In failing in her role, she felt she was failing in representing the women in her professionJustice Rachel Pepper
"[She] also explained that having worked in a male dominant industry, some private companies (including Arcadis) were 'weary' of recruiting females.
"She asserted that in failing in her role, she felt she was failing in representing the women in her profession."
Justice Pepper did not find this persuasive and fined McMullen $30,000, after a 25 per cent reduction for a guilty plea. She must also pay the costs of prosecution.
McMullen's employment was terminated in May 2018.
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