Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 1902 ..
MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Humphries as Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning. In fact, I intended to ask this question yesterday, Mr Speaker, and I gave Mr Humphries notice a few hours before yesterday's question time. It refers to blocks 32 and 33, section 26, Kingston. I gave some notice of the question because it is quite specific. On 15 November 1995 Justice Stein published his report on leasehold. On 20 November 1995, five days later, a lease was issued for the Kingston bowling club site and the remission allowed was 50 per cent. Paragraph 184(b) of the Land Act requires you to exercise a lease variation only when proper betterment has been paid of "an amount determined by the Executive as prescribed in respect of the increase in the value". The prescribed amount, under the Land Act regulations, for a concessional lease of this age was 100 per cent betterment, not 50 per cent. Even if it were a non-concessional lease, the remission should have been 17 per cent, given the age of the lease. Was your decision to allow the issue of this lease contrary to the Land Act, in spite of having the benefit of the Stein report only a few days previously? Further, is it true that, with respect to this lease, a refund of betterment was provided in February 1996, following receipt of a letter of demand, without getting any further legal advice?
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Moore for the question and for giving notice of the question. There are some ironies in this answer after this morning's proceedings in the Assembly. First of all, Mr Speaker, Mr Moore asks whether my decision to allow the issue of a lease was contrary to the Land Act. I should say to him that the decision was not mine; it was made under me, which, of course, exonerates me completely in that respect. Even so, Mr Speaker, I would like to put some information on the record.
Members will recall that the development proposed for the Kingston Women's Bowling Club site was discussed in the Stein report. An application for redevelopment of this site was submitted initially in August 1989, prior to the revised betterment policy being introduced in February 1990 and before the commencement of the Land (Planning and Environment) Act in April 1992. On 16 December 1991 the lessee was given an undertaking that any application for redevelopment and change of purpose would attract a 50 per cent betterment charge in accordance with the then policies and legislation. Mr Moore will note that we were not in government on 16 December 1991. The decision presumably was made by Mr Wood, or under Mr Wood - there is a very important difference there, of course - and this Government has carried through the commitments and undertakings given and, in fact, substantially implemented under the previous Government. The information about the policies and legislation was given at the request of the applicant to clarify the financial implications attached to the development. It was based on the fact that the original crown lease was granted in 1967, and the concessional component of the lease was removed in 1983 when a new 99-year lease, with a more general commercial purpose clause, was granted. The application qualified for processing under the former legislation. However, as the lease variation also required a Territory Plan variation, the applicant was advised that the lease variation could not proceed until the Territory Plan was varied. The variation of the plan was not gazetted until 18 June 1993.