The land deal the government doesn’t want you to know about

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“What Jon Stanhope was hoping to uncover through a freedom of information request were the details of the deal that was struck between the NCA and the ACT government. He received a 30-page document with about 23 pages completely blank,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN. 

WITH the ACT election now just over two months away, Chief Minister Andrew Barr would be urging his colleagues not to remind the electorate of the infamous Dickson land swap. 

Paul Costigan.

That’s the deal between the government and the Dickson Tradies where we are yet to discover just what happened because the box of files went missing when the auditor-general was seeking answers. 

The electorate remains in the dark about how the Tradies seemed to have been the winner with possibly a million of more cash – our money.

Inner-north residents have not forgotten the deal given the goings-on around Section 72 Dickson. Part of this community site was swapped for the car park site in front of the Tradies. 

What could be the worst that could happen to remind everyone about the lack of transparency, the denials, the behind-the-scenes goings-on, the disingenuous spin and use of alternative facts that were used to try to cover it up? Simple, do another deal in this year – the election year. That should get people’s attention. And it has! 

The amazing new secretive deal is the land swap between the NCA – which gained the North Curtin Horse Paddocks – and the ACT government – which gained a strip of the lake along West Basin. 

The NCA says it needs the land in Curtin for more embassies that may show up “sometime”. Who knows when because no straight answers are available from the NCA. 

And the collateral damage from this secretive deal? Out go the equestrians who had been granted use of this land and battered down is the wildlife that uses the corridor. 

Meanwhile, the City Renewal Authority gets part of the lake to be filled in so that all the foreshore, being mostly green parklands with trees and biodiversity, can be bulldozed for a suburb of apartments. 

We all know we need more apartments especially on the foreshore? At least the Authority will have something concrete to boast about, even though it will be horrible. 

It has been suggested that this massive intrusion on the landscape will be an improvement on the number of temporary pop-ups it has plonked all over the inner north. And what a waste of money they have been! 

On Monday, July 14, the same day that the 1975 “Palace Letters” were made public at last, former Chief Minister (and “CityNews” columnist) Jon Stanhope received an email that was a slap in the face, not just to him but to the voters of Canberra. 

Residents yearn for a government to be upfront, to be honest and to be transparent in how it deals with planning issues. Instead, Andrew Barr’s Greens/Labor government has done another land swap and this comes with all the trimmings. 

Yet again there’s a lack of transparency, denials, the behind-the-scenes goings-on, and the usual spin and alternative facts being used to obscure what actually happened.

What Jon Stanhope was hoping to uncover through a freedom of information request were the details of the deal that was struck between the NCA and the ACT government. Last Monday he received a 30-page document with about 23 pages completely blank. On these pages, whatever they were, the information was completely redacted. 

On other pages someone had carefully redacted bits here and there, including parts of the questions that Jon had asked. 

“You have to be kidding! Is this what this Greens/Labor government thinks of how it should treat its own voters? This slap down is a clear sign that someone in charge of this government thinks that there is no need to be honest and transparent about this latest secretive land deal.

One can imagine that the deal was done provided it did not cause any political flack. It was probably not supposed to look like another land swap. Well – guess what? It looks like a land swap, it has the smell of a land swap, and it looks like a land swap where the people of Canberra lose out – AGAIN – just as they did with the Dickson Land Swap.

Well done those around Andrew Barr, well done the NCA, well done City Renewal Authority. 

Andrew Barr and his Greens colleagues go into this election with not one but two very questionable land swaps. Not a good look. Will the Greens and Labor be boasting about them at election rallies?

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  1. What is particularly interesting is the decision of the ACT Government to refuse to disclose the valuation, which one assumes it would have commissioned, of the 30 plus hectares of high value public land at Curtin that it agreed to transfer to the Commonwealth in exchange for a couple of acres of lake bottom. This land is of course a public asset, ie owned by the people of Canberra, and it is unusual and indeed problematic for a Government to refuse to reveal the value of a public asset that it has given away.

    It is also revealing that the formal reason given by the ACT Government for refusing to release any information about the land swap was that it would adversely affect the ACT Governments relationship with the Commonwealth Government.

  2. I urge the government to be transparent and consult with the community on matters that affect our community.
    This includes transparency around the West Basin and Curtin horse paddock land swap and transparency around the options analysis for the site for SPIRE and the Woden CIT to ensure we are working towards great outcomes for our future.

  3. This is just the tip of the iceberg of secretive and questionable deals the Barr Government has done and continue to do. They obviously have a lot to hide otherwise all information would have been provided. They’ve been in government way too long and think they can do whatever they want.

  4. The scariest thing about Canberra politics is the apathy of Canberrans to shady deals by the government. Encumbent Labor governments could sell Lake Burley Griffin to a Chinese hydro electric company and most Labor voting Canberrans would barely shrug!

    • This is so true. Canberrians have the standard of governance, accountability and fiscal decision making that they deserve because they keep on voting these incompetent fools back into office.

  5. Having promised to provide updates on my attempt to unearth information on the detail of the West Basin-Curtin land swap I have sought, from the Ombudsman, a review of the decision by the ACT government to refuse to provide any information whatsoever about the deal. In addition I have approached the leader of the ACT Greens and Cabinet Minister Shane Rattenbury, in light of the Greens stated commitment to open and transparent government, to seek his assistance in having the details of this transaction made public. I have also asked Caroline Le Couteur, the local Greens member, for her assistance in having the fine print of the deal released. It would be interesting to know if the declared Greens candidate Rebecca Vassaroti supports the decision by her leader and the Greens Party to refuse to let her potential constituents know anything about the decision to give the Curtin Horse Paddocks away.

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