Difficulties and Demotion
It was around this point, however, where Vatskalis' initial positive stint ended, and he began to face serious difficulties in his position. He was criticised for the sacking without explanation of one of the Territory's most senior public servants, the head of the Parks and Wildlife Service, Dr Bill Freeland, and had recurring problems surrounding the planned gas plant at Wickham Point on Darwin Harbour. As the contracts had already been signed by the Burke Country Liberal Party government, Vatskalis had little choice but to continue supporting the construction of the gas plant, despite significant pressure from angry community groups. In October 2002, Vatskalis had to be placed under police protection when he received death threats from residents angry over a decision to approve the construction of a private school in a suburban street.
In January 2003, Vatskalis - allegedly unilaterally - banned flights over the Katherine Gorge, but was forced to remove the ban less than a month later after a public outcry. He also became embroiled in a nasty stoush with the taxi industry over planned reforms, clashed with environmentalists over land-clearing around the Daly River area, and was the subject of a damaging A Current Affair report over his handling of the impact on pastoralists from the Alice Springs-Darwin Railway. These controversies were amplified by a personal scandal in August 2003, when Vatskalis was found to be offering paid translation services over the internet while an MP. Not long after, the Northern Territory media reported a number of concerns about a taxpayer-funded trip taken by Vatskalis and Chief Minister Martin in August–September.
While he had also had some successes in this period, cracking down on antisocial behavior by youths in cars, forcing licenses upon the building industry after a series of scams, and attempting to convince the federal government to hand Kakadu National Park back to the NT government - a move soon supported by MPs on both sides of NT politics - the series of incidents throughout 2003 had severely tarnished Vatskalis' reputation.
Read more about this topic: Kon Vatskalis
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