Crown Land leasing and sale under scrutiny

Save our parks signs on the Gosford waterfrontSave our parks signs on the Gosford waterfront

As concerns about the future of the Central Coast’s community land and Crown Land continue, NSW Shadow Minister for Local Business, Mr Peter Primrose, has said he could not attend the public hearing into Crown Lands held in Gosford during August because of Shadow Cabinet commitments.

The August 8 public hearing held in Gosford was the only opportunity for members of the community to speak with members of the Parliamentary Committee conducting the state-wide review into the management of Crown Land. Coast Community News was contacted by several individuals following the Gosford hearing to pass on the information that Mr Primrose had not been in attendance. When fi rst asked why Mr Primrose did not attend the Gosford hearing, he said: “I can’t actually remember; I tried to get to everything.”

Mr Primrose undertook to check his diary and, having done so, he called back to clarify why he had not attended. The Shadow Minister said he had driven to Newcastle on the morning of August 8 to attend the public hearing into Crown Lands there. However, he was required to attend a Shadow Cabinet meeting that afternoon, so he was unable to be at the Gosford hearing. Mr Primrose said he could not have missed that particular meeting of Shadow Ministers because he was required to make presentations on various submissions about Bills before Parliament.

He said the committee had completed its work and had drafted a report. “We haven’t had our final lot of meetings to discuss any changes and sign off, which has to be done before the report is tabled in Parliament,” he said. Meanwhile, the NSW Auditor General released a scathing report on the NSW Crown Lands Department on September 8. According to Greens spokesperson, Mr David Shoebridge, the key findings included that 97 per cent of commercial leases on Crown Land are approved through direct negotiations which can create opportunities for dishonesty or bias.

The Auditor General concluded that the Department is not currently managing the sale and leasing of Crown Land effectively, Mr Shoebridge said. The department has not provided clear and up-todate guidance for staff to make informed, consistent decisions about the sale and leasing of Crown Land, according to the Auditor General’s report. The Department often does not provide opportunities for people to understand and have a say in decisions about Crown Land, according to the report. Its approach to community consultation has been focused on notification rather than meaningful engagement, it said.

Decision making about Crown Land is not transparent and some of the data the department uses to support decision making is inaccurate, according to Mr Shoebridge. Despite the Auditor General’s findings, according to Mr Primrose, the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water, Mr Niall Blair, has reneged on a promise made by the former minister to release an exposure draft of the planned Bill to reform the management of Crown Land in Australia.

“Niall Blair has said there will be no exposure draft and in October he will bring the Bill into the Parliament. “I am not aware of any other case in NSW where an exposure draft has been promised and not delivered,” Mr Primrose said. “The Minister has given us some ideas of what will be in the Bill, but they are like headings and the danger is, that the courts will make determinations based on this law and people’s lives will be changed by what is in it,’ Mr Primrose said.

Interview, Sep 15, 2016 Peter Primrose, NSW Shadow Minister for Local Government Media release, Sep 8, 2016 Chandi Bates, office of David Shoebridge Jackie Pearson, journalist