The Baird Government is grossly mismanaging the Crown Land estate and the community is being frozen out of decision-making, according to a report from the NSW Auditor General into the Sale and lease of Crown land.
This report confirms what the Greens and members of the public have been saying for years, that public parks, reserves and foreshores lands are being sold and leased at alarming rates with no transparency and minimal oversight. Urgent reform is needed to protect our precious public land estate.
Greens MP and Crown Land Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“This report confirms what the public has known for years, closed door negotiations with selected applicants are normal when it comes to signing away the rights over public land. This has to end.
“One figure stands out from this report, it’s the fact that 97 percent of commercial leases approved on crown land over the last four years were directly negotiated with just one player.
“Direct negotiation is means there was no public announcement of a proposed lease, no call for tenders and on one apart from a chosen few even being aware that a deal was about to be cut on public land.
“Whether it is the Paddington Bowling Club, the Talus Trust in Willoughby or King Edward Park in Newcastle the fact is Crown land is woefully mismanaged and the public interest is being routinely ignored.
“Public land is being grossly mismanaged and sold off while the community is being shut out of a process that lacks oversight and transparency.
“Management of Crown Land is so inept in NSW that the Government doesn’t even have a debt collection policy. There is more than $6 million of debt outstanding from crown land tenants, with some cases of tenants not paying rent for more than 10 years.
“Not only is decision-making not transparent during individual sales and leases, there isn’t even a clear public register of these transactions once they have happened.
“The best disinfectant for corruption and mismanagement is always sunlight, and there is a lot of sunlight needed to clear up the mess that is the Crown Land portfolio in NSW.
“This report will be an invaluable additional asset in for the Upper House’s ongoing inquiry into Crown Land that is due to report later this year,” Mr Shoebridge said.
- 97 per cent of commercial leases are approved through direct negotiations, which can create opportunities for dishonesty or bias
- The Department is not currently managing the sale and leasing of Crown land effectively
- There were 225 Crown land sales between 2012-15
- The Department has not provided clear and up-to-date guidance for staff to make informed, consistent decisions about the sale and leasing of Crown land
- The Department often does not provide opportunities for people to understand and have a say in decisions about Crown land. Its approach to community consultation has been focused on notification, rather than meaningful engagement
- Decision-making about Crown land is not transparent
- Some of the data the Department uses to support decision-making is inaccurate