Crown land sale referred to ICAC

A graphic used by ABC News to show the 1100 square metres of Crown Land sold to Woy Woy Holdings for $38,000A graphic used by ABC News to show the 1100 square metres of Crown Land sold to Woy Woy Holdings for $38,000

The sale of 1100 square metres of Crown land to the owners of Woy Woy Sporties has been referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption by Greens MP Mr David Shoebridge.

Mr Shoebridge said it was a “public land giveaway that occurred in near-secret”. Documents obtained via the NSW Government Information Public Access (GiPA) Act, including the sale contract, list the land as 1 North Burge Rd, Lot 369 in DP 755251. “The sale raises grave concerns about the integrity of the remainder of the $9 billion plus in public lands sales that have occurred under the NSW Coalition Government,” he said. “The prime public waterfront land … was sold in 2015 for just $38,000, significantly below its real value, and despite internal valuations putting it at least $120,000.

“The land sale was negotiated behind closed doors without going to market. “Once the deal was done, the proposed sale was only advertised in a distant newspaper, a five-hour drive from the site, published in Batemans Bay, in breach of legal requirements under the Crown Lands Act. “The department itself put a potential value on the site of $120,000, but even that undervalued this prime waterfront site. “In the end it was sold at a fraction of that.” “From the outset this was a contentious proposal that has seen a much-loved local bowling club being sold off for development.

“For many residents of the area to then be excluded from even basic notification is an added insult. “It is quite literally unbelievable that the only notice given by the Coalition of the proposed sale of the land was in a small local newspaper 270 km away from the site. “We have uncovered these failings after constant digging for the truth and we now need ICAC to look at not just this sale, but the thousands of other public sites sold off by the Coalition. “This is a shameful breach of trust and a clear breach of the law and this is why I have referred it to the ICAC,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Mr Shoebridge’s letter to the ICAC requested an “urgent investigation” into the matter “as it appears on its face to satisfy the definition of corrupt conduct in s8 of the ICAC Act. “In summary, on or about June 19, 2015, a valuable parcel of public land was sold by the then Minister for Lands, Trade and Industry and Primary Industries under s34 of the then Crown Lands Act,” the letter said. “The sale was administered by the Crown Lands Division of Trade and Investment. “That process was grossly deficient and in breach of the statutory requirements for such sale by reason of the following, the land was sold for $38,830 in a direct dealing with just on purchases, [redacted] Pty Ltd.

“The land adjoined another parcel of Crown Land that had a Statutory Land Valuation of $110 million which, if applied to the site in question, would have seen it valued at $121,000. “The land had an annual rental of $4785 per annum which capitalised at eight per cent would be valued at $59,819. “A full land assessment was not undertaken of the land prior to the sale. “The proposed sale of the land was notified only in the Batemans Bay Post, a small regional publication based 270km south of the subject site. “Section 34 of the Crown Lands Act prohibited the sale of land unless at least 14 days prior to the sale the proposed sale was published in a newspaper circulating in the locality in which the land is situated or in a newspaper circulating generally in the state.

“Once sold a development application was lodged for the site seeking to build a seniors living development on it which, if approved, will provide the successful purchaser with a very significant windfall profit. “A number of the above steps raise very real concerns, not least the culpable failure to appropriately advertise the sale. “However, it is the combination of the following decisions that motivate my office to refer this matter: the decision to undertake a direct sale with just one proponent; the decision only to advertise the proposed sale in a paper so obviously inappropriate…; the failure to undertake a full assessment prior to sale; and the decision to sell the property for a price that was less than 50 per cent of the Statutory Land Valuation on the adjoining site and even below the capitalised value to the public of the annual rental being paid for the site,” the letter of referral said.

SOURCE: Media release, 16 Aug 2018 David Shoebridge, NSW Greens

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