Folks, here is a recent article by Michael West on our big TV companies refusing to pay rent for their transmission towers on our land. Thanks again Michael for trying to keep them honest. If someone is able to advise why Fairfax refuses to run our stories on Crown land corruption and the new Act, please let us know.
To: Premier Mike Baird & Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian
NSW Crown Land corruption to be referred to ICAC
1. Bring about the immediate referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption of the serious and systemic mismanagement of Crown land in NSW as shown by the Auditor General’s report of 8 September 2016, including the cases of King Edward Park (Newcastle), Talus (Willoughby), Yasmar (Haberfield), Stuart Park (Wollongong) and Paddington Bowling Club.
2. Defer the commencement date of the Crown Land Management Act 2016 until after ICAC has investigated and reported on the matters.
Why is this important?
*Most of our open spaces, our public parks, sporting ovals, our beaches (like Bondi), our headlands, our waterways and our bush, are Crown land. In truth, it is simply “public land”. The right of the general public to use and enjoy our public land is an essential part of our egalitarian society and the Courts have always upheld - under the general law - the public’s rights of access. But that is all about to change. Telling us that new legislation was needed to overcome various management issues resulting from out-of-date legislation, the NSW Coalition has just passed new legislation that will in fact facilitate the greatest privatisation of our public land in NSW history. Please read on if you are interested.
The Crown Land Management Bill - rushed through Parliament by the NSW Government on 9 November - was the Government’s response to years of allegations of systemic mismanagement and cronyism in its Crown Land Department (“Crown Lands”) and by local councils.
Those allegations (by various community groups) were effectively accepted as accurate and substantiated, first, by Mark Paterson as head of Crown Lands on 22 June 2015 and, second, by the NSW Auditor General on presenting her scathing report to Parliament on 8 September 2016.
In his admission last year, Mr Paterson admitted the “systemic issues” identified by his lawyers were so bad as to require staff training “in fraud and corruption prevention”. Paterson's media release is here: https://www.opengov.nsw.gov.au/viewer/81b25fee74db45ee92b75d130638203b.pdf
The Auditor General found - as alleged by the community - that countless crown reserves were being used for unlawful purposes, including by businesses well connected to the relevant decision makers. Some 90% of these dodgy deals were done behind closed doors, for peppercorn rents.
The Auditor General recommended Crown Lands identify all cases of unlawful uses of Crown reserves by March 2017. The Auditor General's report is here: http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/publications/latest-reports/sale-and-lease-of-crown-land.
Then on 13 October 2016, an Upper House Inquiry - brought on by sustained pressure from Crown land community groups - delivered yet another report on Crown land mismanagement. This Upper House report made a series of recommendations as to what any new legislation should include. The Upper House report is here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2404#tab-reports
But it was too late: Minister Niall Blair had already completed his new 208 page Bill. It was introduced into the Upper House on 19 October without even so much as an Exposure Draft. It was debated for the first time - and passed by both Houses - on 9 November. Crown Lands drafted this Bill. It will now become law.
The new Act allows: the Minister to declare lawful all these previous unlawful activities (Clause 5.26); private businesses to control Crown reserves and to charge entry fees to public land (clause 2.17); and private business to agree on uses that go outside the uses permitted by statute (clause 5.2). And the Bill automatically provides the Minister’s approval to these businesses lodging a new DA to use - or build on - our public land not only for any statutory use but any other use that is allowed by the terms of their own private agreement (clause 2.23(2)(c)(ii) and 2.23(2)(g)(i)).
To have allowed Crown Lands to draft this Bill to allow them to cover up their past mistakes, make lawful what was previously unlawful and to not require the Government’s mates to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, is like allowing the greyhound industry to draft a bill to cover up its own past mistakes. It is basic governance that you never give the job of fixing up a problem to those who were in any way involved in the making of the problem. It is unconscionable and a high form of corruption.
It is time for the Government of NSW to start governing for the people, not for its mates.
Please check the Updates below for links to more information on the internet. And email me if you have any specific queries or know of any further abuses of Crown land. JBOwens, Crown Land Alliance