The NSW government has abandoned plans to move up to 340 staff from Maitland to Newcastle after three years preparing for the shift.
The secretary of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Jim Betts, and division of resources and geoscience deputy secretary Michael Wright told a budget estimates hearing on Friday that the department had no plans to move staff from Maitland.
Mr Betts told the hearing that the department had looked at consolidating the leases it held in the Maitland area but had not conducted a "major set-piece review".
He said the government was always looking at reducing office costs, but "there is no option which involves relocation out of Maitland".
Documents released under freedom of information laws confirm the department has been planning to include hundreds of DPIE staff in a consolidation of Hunter public servants in a new 12-storey office building beside the Newcastle transportation interchange.
The documents show senior executives in the department have been discussing the move since the then Department of Industry released the preliminary findings of its "Hunter Accommodation Strategy" in 2016.
That strategy proposes moving staff, including up to 340 from Maitland's Minerals House, to a 6000-square metre "hub" in Newcastle and retaining a much smaller office in Maitland.
The plan proceeded to a ministerial briefing late last year, and departmental executives briefed Maitland staff on the move in May.
But the plan has now been junked, leaving the question who will occupy the office building Doma is erecting on the former Store site.
The government has committed to be the building's anchor tenant for 10 years.
The change in DPIE's plans follows criticism from Maitland's business chamber and Labor MP Jenny Aitchison, who distributed a petition in the town a month ago.
Ms Aitchison said she now feared the government would try to move about 300 Revenue NSW staff from Maitland to Newcastle instead.
The Resources Regulator, the state's mine safety watchdog and one of the agencies targeted for a move to Newcastle, pushed back against the plan last year.
Executive director Anthony Keon, in an email on November 23, referred to the "significant impact this would have on service delivery and emergency response capability".
Now-departed Resources Regulator deputy secretary Lee Shearer complained her agency was being left out of the loop on the relocation.
"This is really starting to become annoying," she wrote in November. "This is not the first time cluster corporate services have left us out of decision making and frankly it has to stop."
Ms Aitchison said moving staff would hurt Maitland's economy and expose them to job cuts under government plans to shed 2500 positions from the public sector.
This year's state budget quarantined regional jobs from the cuts, but the released documents show the government does not regard Newcastle as "regional" in this instance.
But a DPIE spokesperson said the Premier stood by her commitment that there would be "no regional job losses as a result of the machinery of government changes".
"The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which includes the Office of the Resources Regulator, will maintain its presence in Maitland," the spokesperson said.
"It is currently exploring options to maintain its Maitland presence, including lease extensions.
"The Department recognises the importance of the Resources Regulator's work in mine safety service and supports its continuation."
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