Barr government slammed for its land management

Dr Maxine Cooper

THE ACT government has been criticised in an audit report for its inadequate clarity and documentation around its $43 million purchase of 3378 hectares of rural land in Canberra’s west.

In the report ACT auditor-general Dr Maxine Cooper says the 3378 hectares of rural land, of which 3274 hectares is in the Western Edge Study area; “the subject of future investigation” in the ACT Planning Strategy (2012), as a potential future urban development front. However, there is no certainty of future urban development.

And, six years on the “investigation” has not commenced. 

“Given the ownership by the ACT government of the rural lands planning studies that will inform the update of the ACT Planning Strategy (2012) need to be independent of existing land tenure and cover the whole of the Territory,” Dr Cooper says. 

The audit highlights that there has been a disconnect in the priorities of the work undertaken by the former Land Development Agency and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, which means either there will be delays in the identification and release of potential urban development fronts or suboptimal use of resources in securing and maintaining properties that may not become a future urban development front.

“In the future the ACT government needs to give priority to better managing the integration of the timing of planning studies and land purchases,” she says. 

The audit found that probity was lacking, and there were probity risks, in some of the actions of the former Land Development Agency in its purchase of the properties.

There was also inadequate clarity and documentation provided for the application of the ACT government’s Planning and Development (Land Acquisition Policy Framework) Direction 2014 (No 1).

 

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