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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 2774 ..

Report on Watson, Section 61, Block 8 (Former Starlight Drive-In Site)

Debate resumed from 21 September 1995, on motion by Mr Moore:

That the report be noted.

MR WOOD (11.09): Mr Speaker, I will not speak at great length. This was a reference that, on the recommendation of the committee and with the agreement of the Government and all parties, was deferred until the completion of the Stein report. That report is now down, so the consideration of this issue can proceed. I have not yet completed an exhaustive study of Stein, so I am not yet in a position to comment in full detail on what that report says. My first and rather rapid reading revealed to me that Stein certainly made comments about lease enforcement in this case, as in other cases, and made certain other comments. But I do not specifically recall in that first reading seeing highly critical comments that might suggest that this matter should not proceed. As I recall, Stein indicated that there was no suggestion of favouritism towards developers. That was one of the suggestions that had been bandied around. I would prefer to go into the detail a little later, when I complete my comprehensive reading of Stein.

A couple of other recommendations were included in the report, one of which was that the approach of selling units off the plan should be carefully examined. I think that is a sensible proposal. It is the case these days, it seems to me, that banks will not lend money for developments of this nature unless units have been substantially sold in the first instance. They want to know that they are not going to have a bummer on their hands, so they have fairly strict requirements in lending. That does not stop developers who consistently sell off the plan before the plans are approved. In almost all circumstances, information material has a rider that the plan is dependent upon approval. That is a necessary rider. But it is the case on some occasions that developers who are anxious to move things along start selling off plans rather earlier than they should.

Mr Speaker, I will make some points about the North Watson proposal generally, which of course includes an area well beyond the Starlight Drive-In site. It includes the area around Antill Street, down to Northbourne Avenue and across to the existing development in Watson. That has always been a sensible proposal recognised in this Assembly, which passed the draft variation. It was recognised as a proposal that was economically sound and environmentally sound and therefore should proceed. Mr Humphries, in a comment recently, one that I do not think I fully understand yet - and he might clarify the situation for me - indicated that residential development on the government leases, as distinct from the Starlight Drive-In site, would be deferred or delayed as this was not the time to proceed with extensive new housing. If that was his comment, I certainly agree. With the downturn in the building industry, with the decline in the rate of population growth, there has not been strong demand in the last year or so for new premises. If that is the reason that Mr Humphries has indicated a deferment, I am quite satisfied. If he is considering putting off the proposal altogether, I would be very disappointed, and I think the ACT community would be disappointed. I think that is something that we might hear some more detail about.

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