St Clair Land Swap

19 Jun 2013 speecharchive

This speech is in regards to the St Clair Land Swap and is to move that a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on all aspects of the St Clair land swap.

 The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:14): I move:

1.That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on all aspects of the St Clair land swap including but not limited to—

(a) All previous and current decisions of the Charles Sturt council on this matter, including the vote to request the state government to dedicate this land as a memorial park;

(b) The findings of the Ombudsman's Report on the St Clair Land Swap Investigation, including matters of conflict of interest;

(c) The significant amount of land lost to roads in the land swap, and reduction of open space;

(d) The advice provided and sought by council on the area of open space available to the community before and after the land swap;

(e) The communications between council, prospective developers and the state government; and

(f) Any other relevant matter.

2.That standing order No. 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3.That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

4.That standing order No. 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

This motion is following from the many goings on within the jurisdiction of the City of Charles Sturt. We had a motion successfully passed by this Legislative Council which was moved by the leader of the Liberal Party in this place, the Hon. David Ridgway, in February and voted on in March which highlighted a lot of the issues to do with the St Clair land swap. I will not go into extensive detail as the honourable member did, but I will refer to some of the comments he made. For the benefit of those who wish to look at his remarks, he spoke on 6 February 2013 and the vote was taken on 6 March.

This issue has been an ongoing problem for the community of Woodville, St Clair and within the City of Charles Sturt, and has caused considerable disquiet in the community. There are few issues I have seen in recent years that have got the community so activated and outraged by the actions that have taken place within council which have been directed by Labor operatives.

Just to provide a thumbnail of the goings-on: decisions have been made while this Labor government has been in place which have resulted in a popular recreational park (St Clair Reserve) being swapped for a piece of contaminated land at the old Actil site in Woodville. Clearly, the work required to rehabilitate the land is extensive, and when we look at the space that will be provided into the future if this is to go ahead, the land swap is not at all equal.

The assertion that 4.7 hectares will be swapped for 4.7 hectares is a furphy. That is because a significant amount of green space will be lost, particularly through the inclusion of roads, etc., within the St Clair area. Indeed, there are some 2,750 square metres of road which would be taken out of the 4.7 hectares which will not, in fact, be open space.

This issue has been debated significantly by the City of Charles Sturt. There were so many links between the Labor government and council members that the issue has been to the courts, and also to the Ombudsman. The then minister for local government was found not to have complied with her own act because she had not considered the merits for and against the land swap before she agreed to it.

In relation to the Ombudsman's report, it was discovered that several Charles Sturt councillors had potential conflicts of interest, and 12 out of the 17 councillors were members of the Australian Labor Party. This was not known until after the investigation had taken place. So, the relationships were more than just cosy; there were various ministerial staffers and electorate officers, and these were people who were making decisions. They clearly did not make those in the community's interest, and certainly could not set aside their conflicts of interest when they voted on these issues.

Within that report, it showed that the member for Croydon had given advice to people about who should nominate as councillors, provided advice and guidance to those people about which committees they should serve on, organised street meetings and campaign meetings, advertised things in the press, and even hosted a barbeque here at Parliament House, where they talked about doing deals and all those sorts of things.

After the council elections, there was some change in elected members because the community was so outraged. I note the overwhelming support that was given to the now Mayor of the City of Charles Sturt, Ms Kirsten Alexander, who had led the community charge against the land swap.

Although some of the faces have changed, this council is still subject to many complaints. Indeed, I see it was recently reported that, while the average council receives one or two code of conduct complaints, the City of Charles Sturt has recorded 17. Unfortunately, we are not able to know the substance of those and what the outcomes were, but I think it does go to the ongoing issue that takes place down there. There is clearly continuing influence by the Australian Labor Party on the activities of council.

The Local Government Association has done some research on the lack of open space in the western suburbs and found that it is somewhere between 10 and 20 ovals short of the required open space, so the loss of open space through this land swap is not insignificant. The other issue that has been highlighted more recently has been the importance of this piece of land to the veteran community, a community that we should always hold in the highest regard and do our utmost to preserve their memory and respect their service in all things we do.

The plan to build houses on St Clair Reserve has actually been described as 'appalling' by the current director of the Australian War Memorial, who has joined with local residents and actually written a letter to outline his position that he opposes what is taking place there. In 1942, the wartime community decided to turn that site into a memorial park, and there are ashes of veterans who have been scattered there in memory. I note that the council itself voted on 27 May to support honouring the 1942 position calling for the reserve to be retained as a memorial, and 3,000 petitions were handed to the opposition leader, Steven Marshall, in support of that matter.

The final decision on the DPA has not been made by this government, and the Liberal Party believes that, because of the significant potential corruption that is taking place and some of those relationships, clearly the community has spoken through its decision to overwhelmingly support Kirsten Alexander as their mayor. We believe that the government continues to ignore the wishes of local residents, and indeed the veteran community, and therefore that this matter deserves to be referred to a select committee so that those issues can receive ongoing scrutiny. I commend the motion to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. K.J. Maher.