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Inquiry into Leasehold Administration

MR MOORE (5.34): Pursuant to standing order 246A, I make the following statement on behalf of the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment. On Friday, 2 June 1995, the committee resolved as follows:

That the Government institute an inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the administration of ACT leasehold with particular reference to the assessment and collection of the appropriate charges arising from betterment.

The committee also decided that I should make a statement on this matter to the Assembly at the first available opportunity. The background to the committee's decision is as follows: The Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning wrote to the committee on 26 April 1995, asking us to consider a redevelopment proposal for Watson, section 61, block 8 - the former Starlight Drive-In site. Mr Speaker, we have just dealt with the report on that issue. The committee conducted public hearings on this matter and heard from government officials, representatives of the proponent and the public. The committee has produced a detailed report on its examination of the redevelopment proposal, which has just been tabled and debated. The important point in the context of this statement is the committee's conclusion that the Government ought not proceed with the proposed redevelopment until after the inquiry into the ACT leasehold system has reported. In order not to prolong the matter unduly, the committee considers that it may be desirable for the leasehold inquiry to report to the Government on Watson before it brings down its final report on the whole ACT leasehold system. This is a matter for the Government and the inquiry to decide.

At the same time as the committee was considering the Watson matter, it was examining the draft variation for Yowani golf course. This was the subject of the first report of the committee in this Assembly, which was tabled in the last sittings. In examining the Yowani draft variation, the committee became extremely concerned about uncertainty within ACT Leasing about the amount of betterment payable. We received two pieces of advice on this matter from DELP, one stating that the remission rate to apply for calculation of betterment was 50 per cent and one stating that it was 20 per cent. The difference in revenue loss to the Territory is about $1.5m, which is a significant sum of money in these difficult economic times. In fact, I think it is a significant sum of money at any stage. If uncertainty exists on these two matters that happened to come to the committee's attention, it might be presumed that similar uncertainty exists in relation to other development proposals in the Territory. The result would be that the ACT community might be missing out on substantial sums of money due to inappropriate action by the department.

The committee is so concerned about this issue that members unanimously resolved to call upon the Government to institute an inquiry into the leasehold system. The committee also expressed the view that the inquiry would best be conducted by people with expertise in the law, auditing/accounting and the leasehold system, suggesting that an inquiry by three people would be the most appropriate. When making its decision,

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