Save our crown lands

Clr. Saville has provided the following perspective:

crown-land1The 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.

Key findings from the report:<>

•         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



Here is a report from former residents who lived directly opposite 126 Greville:Scientology5

We were asked to arrive around 11.30 for the 12.00 ceremony but we were delayed and got there at 12.15.  Greville St was parked out, there was media outside the front gate and around 30 vested security guard, around 50+ immaculately dressed members/officials to make sure you were signed in and escorted to your seats, at least two drones flying overhead and two huge boom cameras recording proceedings.  There was a table manned by suited types serving tea/coffee/water and a couple of screens which look like they were set up for those too far away to see.  We were grouped with about 3 others to a middle aged church member called Kim who was warm and friendly and escorted us to a spot where we could see the official opening and stayed with us.  The opening was said to include a performance by Kate Cebranno.

We could not stay later than about 12.45 so we walked out and were interviewed by channel 9 but it does not look like they used it in the news bulletin.  We were told we could go in anytime and ask for a look around.

Additional reports from local residents who attended the opening:

It was actually a bit of an intimidating presence. There was a lot of security and some were even scouting up and down all of Greville Street. In the week leading up to it security were staring at cars driving past. There was also a police presence. They had their camera crew there as well at the entrance filming.

When driving past I noticed on the day a ‘registration desk’ and I wasn’t willing to register my contact details so I don’t know what they’ve done with the building suffice to say I did read that there are private quarters for the likes of Travolta and Cruise visits.

You could Kate Cebrano’s mini concert and a lot of cheering.

I heard on radio this morning that they had to fly in OS Scientologists to make up numbers from places like Taiwan as Chatswood residents simply didn’t make up the numbers that they’d hoped for.”.

“Yes I went with my husband, but he lost patience and did not stay.  For me, it was just to see how they would be as neighbours, not to be judgemental about what they stand for etc.  There was negligible impact on the street, and you would not have known how many people were inside.  This was specially interesting, as the buses had to drop people off in Greville Street, as the bus station in Millwood Avenue is not yet operating. There was a strong police presence.  Everyone was very polite, and when asked to fill in a form, I said I was a neighbour, and their reaction was delight.  Anyone I spoke to was happy that neighbours came.  My guess is there were over 2000 people there.  They handed out a map of the site, served sandwiches, poppers of coconut water, tea and coffee. 

 The official proceedings only started at about 12.45.  Everyone was seated, so we had been standing around for over an hour.  I was sitting next to a very friendly man who was very happy to talk about the organisation and answer any questions.  He said that he worked for their Sydney headquarters and he and his children had been members for 20 years.  The Chatswood base is for advanced training, and they expect over 400 people per day from all over Australasia.  A lot of the Chatswood staff are like monastery (my terminology) people, ie. they live and breathe their job.  They live in a complex in Dundas, and get bussed in every day, working from 9am to 9.30pm.  A film crew came from Los Angeles to film the whole opening, which will become part of their events promotional films.  They had drones photographing, They had cameras on extendable jibs, so it will be very professional. 
They asked if anyone had to leave, that they leave during the speeches, not during the clapping, as that will be when the main filming happens.  There was a lot of Aussie and Taiwanese flag waving.  The whole presentation was very Hollywood and the audience loved it.  There was a didgeridoo player who did Welcome to Country and later danced to drum playing.  Then Kate Ceberano sang backed by a local Scientology choir.  They had a Chinese dragon, Asian drummers, women with headdresses (a hodge-podge of mixed culture).  I only stayed for the beginning of the official opening and the first major speech, and left at1.20pm.  So I did not get a tour of the complex.  However, my ‘friend’ suggested that I phone their reception area, and ask to be shown around at a later date.  They are fairly open.  So I hope my observations have been helpful.  Here are some photos.
“we walked around but were confronted by tv cameras, security guards and Scientology personal at Greville Street entrance and asked what we thought of The Church.  We crossed the road to Cnr of Greville/Wood sts. to observe.  Huge crowds, a few locals and everyone had to register.

We retired to my property where we looked over the fence.  One neighbour did go and gave us a pamphlet which was handed out.  I think the layout plan varies from previously, with students entrance on the Greville st side of the building.  We were previously told they would all be bussed in from Milwood, so this needs following up.
I’m prepared to make an exception because yesterday was the opening, but the last of them did not leave until about 12.30am, way past the approved departure time. “