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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 June 1995) . . Page.. 872 ..

This issue was raised because the Minister for Planning wrote to the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment and asked the committee whether it would look into the Starlight Drive-In site and, in particular, that lease. We did so, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that, for quite some years, this lease has been a controversial lease, which, I suspect, is why the Minister referred it to the committee. In fact, we first became aware of controversy surrounding this lease in a report in 1987 by Professor Max Neutze, who was reporting to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the ACT while it was undertaking an investigation into the leasehold system. This lease was identified at that point as a troublesome lease. In spite of being identified in that report, it has continued to be a problem lease for quite some time.

Mr Speaker, the committee was particularly concerned about a series of matters. I will take them, one at a time, from the recommendations. The first recommendation is:

That the Government ensure appropriate lease conditions (and other arrangements) are in place to ensure that the serviced apartments are not sold or used for long-term residential use.

This proposed development and the variation to this lease provide for both residential and tourist accommodation or serviced apartments. It seems to me that, if we are going to allow it to be divided in that way, we have to find ways in which we can police such leases. The history of this lease indicates that policing of the lease has not been particularly successful.

There was also the manner in which a number of dwellings were purchased off the plan, stamp duty was paid to the Territory and, from evidence presented to the committee, a number of people who bought off the plan were given to understand that the variation to the Territory Plan and the lease variation had gone through. In fact, the term used by a number of agents who were selling these dwellings was that it was just a matter of a rubber stamp. Indeed, Mr Speaker, any lease variation is at the discretion of the Government and is not necessarily a matter of a rubber stamp. We believe that a number of people misunderstood the rights and responsibilities there, although I have been informed since this report was first presented to you, Mr Speaker, that a contract was signed, and certainly the agent who was selling these dwellings made the point to me that the contract actually stated that it was awaiting approval. Even so, we know that on many occasions the fine print in a contract can be missed by ordinary people.

If, indeed, the impression was given, as I believe it was, that these dwellings were, effectively, approved and therefore were sold off the plan, then I think there is a real question of ethics involved. That is why the committee said in the second recommendation:

That the Government, and in particular the Minister for Consumer Affairs, investigate the sale of residential dwellings ‘off the plan’ before all relevant development conditions have been met (including approval of the lease variation) and ensure that legislative and administrative arrangements are in place to protect the interests of purchasers.

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