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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (20 May) . . Page.. 390 ..


Rural Residential Development

MR STANHOPE: My question is to the Minister for Justice and Community Safety. In question time yesterday the Chief Minister advised the Assembly that the Government's preliminary agreement or contract with developer Derek Whitcombe was terminated because the Government had made its decision on the basis of false information. In an interjection during the answer the Minister for Justice and Community Safety acknowledged that the reason the Government had, nevertheless, approved the deal with Mr Whitcombe was that it had been misled by the advice it had received from the Office of Planning and Land Management. Can the Minister tell the Assembly how PALM misled the Government?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I am not sure that it is a matter that I am actually responsible for at the moment, but I am quite happy to provide the information which Mr Stanhope has requested. The Chief Minister indicated yesterday, quite clearly, that, apart from anything else, Mr Whitcombe has pulled out of the proposed arrangement. In a sense, the ongoing issue to the Territory is of somewhat limited relevance. The Chief Minister indicated, when she answered the question, that the problem that the Government had was that it was relying on the assumption that Mr Whitcombe brought to the Territory a proposal for development for rural residential purposes of approximately three blocks of land close to the village of Hall.

As it transpired - and this information became clear, at least to the Government, only very recently; that is, in the last seven days - the three blocks which supposedly were brought to the table by Mr Whitcombe in this arrangement were, in fact, at best, only one block; that is, what is now block 630. I do not know the subdivision, but it is block 630 close to Hall. Certainly, the Chief Minister in her discussion with Mr Whitcombe previously had been under the impression that there were three blocks that the occupants of the land, the Bolton family, actually had some title to and were bringing to the table, as it were, as part of an arrangement to develop those sites. It has become clear that only one block, in fact, is still leased to the Boltons, and that is leased only on a month-to-month basis. That is the nub of the difference between the two perceptions - the perception that the Government operated on for some while, before the last seven days or so, and the perception on which the Government assessed that there was a significant problem as a result of the preliminary agreement that was entered into with Mr Whitcombe and assessed that there was a problem with proceeding with the development of that site, given that Mr Whitcombe brought to the table, in fact, not three leases but only one lease. Even then, that was a lease only on a month-to-month basis.

Whether you could argue that PALM has misled anybody on that basis, I think, is a moot point. If I have indicated that anyone in PALM has misled me, perhaps I am overstating the situation. I will say, however, that at least a number of the parties dealing with the matter were under the impression that Mr Whitcombe had the cooperation of the Bolton family and it, in turn, brought to the table some sort of title over three leases near Hall.

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