Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3680..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
It is reprehensible that a simple straightforward variation to the territory plan that resulted in a simple 10-page report to this place has taken 21/2 years to get through the planning processes because they were delayed by the minister, who was pretty unhappy that the Assembly had the temerity to require particular things to happen. In April 2002, the Assembly required that a draft variation be instituted and the minister delayed that for over a year, for nearly two years, by instituting a number of planning studies that he decided would have to come before that. It was flying fairly much in the face of the will of the Assembly. It was a very narrow adherence to the will of the Assembly.
So, I am glad that we have finally got this here and that the planning and environment committee has done its part. I urge the government to do its part and confirm this variation as soon as possible so that the Assembly can be finished with what should have been a very simple piece of work before it expires at the end of next week. I also want to make some comment about how the government might dispose of the land once the variation has taken place. From time to time the proponents and the current leaseholders have expressed to me, and I am sure to other people, a high level of anxiety that they might be cut out of the process because of the handling of this by the planning minister.
I place on the record that I think it was the clear intention of the Assembly when it debated this in April 2002, and it is the clear practice in relation to the disposal of rural leases, that if leases change in some way or other that the occupying leaseholder has first dibs on taking up a new lease. I put it on the record that it is the expectation of the Liberal opposition that the current leaseholders will be so treated in this case. I have had some preliminary discussions with the acting minister's office about the nature of the lease. While I understand the view of the government that perhaps a 99-year lease may not be entirely appropriate, I am concerned that manoeuvres are still going on that may constrain the occupiers and the owners of the lease from making a reasonable investment in this.
I think that at the moment the government might be considering issuing a 20-year lease. I think that a 20-year lease is entirely unacceptable. If someone wants to make an investment in buildings, be they residences, which the study says that people should be entitled to build there, or any other buildings, they may need to obtain a mortgage. It is very difficult to obtain a mortgage when you only have a 20-year lease on a property, because a lot of mortgages run for more than 20 years.
I am not quite sure what the magic number is. While I understand the government's concerns about 99-year leases, I am very concerned that it might be considering only a 20-year lease, which would constrain the occupiers from building a residence. The clear implications of the land study, and the clear wish of this Assembly from the outset, are that if the leaseholders, whoever they may be, wish to build a residence on that place they should not be prohibited from doing so. That is why we set out in the first place to change the land use policy so that that would allow the building of a residence. At this stage I do not want to find another set of constraints put in the path of potential leaseholders.
If the government thinks that in 25 years this is an enormously valuable piece of land and it might have another need for it, by all means put a withdrawal clause in the lease, but do not constrain what people can do on the lease in the meantime. I have been told by