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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (14 October) . . Page.. 3125 ..

MR OSBORNE: Do not ask me about my score lines with St George, please. On the other hand, the proposal does have many good points which give it merit. It is supported, although narrowly, by the majority of the club members, many of whom come from the surrounding suburbs. There appear to be a number of community benefits, such as increased amenity for club members and those from the surrounding area who use the course for recreational purposes. The proposal contains an innovative range of housing types and environmentally friendly surroundings. I believe that the club intends to return to the Red Hill Nature Reserve about nine hectares of land which is largely unused by either the club or local residents and improve access to the reserve for members of the public. Of course, there would be an economic benefit over the next two or three years, although to balance that I note that no jobs would be lost if the development did not go ahead.

Water supply is a fundamental need of any golf course, and this course is badly in need of a long-term solution. The course was built at a time when a cheap and assured water supply was not an issue, nor ever considered to become one. However, with the progression in recent years towards a full user-pays system, water has now become a major cost and one which fairly quickly requires a long-term solution. The club estimates that $2.5m is needed for the course to establish a reliable and sustainable water management system. Their water management strategy appears sound and has been approved by both ACTEW and conservationists. I have noted that the course is ranked No. 56 in Australia and is one of the top five inland courses in the country. Next year, the course will host a major national tournament, making it a significant and highly visible community asset.

I have taken note of the claimed established precedent for allowing a golf club to sell concessional land for a windfall gain. It appears that there is indeed a long history of the Liberal and Labor parties consistently allowing this practice. One of the precedents which have been freely used is the Murrumbidgee Country Club in Kambah. I do not believe that this example can be considered as part of a precedent as the Murrumbidgee course was developed from the beginning as a complete club/housing development package. It was not a case of a club getting a concessional lease and then flogging off some of the land for housing. The two cannot be compared, Mr Speaker.

I realise that precedents have their purpose and need to be taken into account when making decisions such as this one. However, I do not necessarily feel constrained by precedents in this case. Just because someone did the wrong thing all those other times does not necessarily mean that we have to do the wrong thing again now. I understand that the High Court takes that view from time to time. I have tried to approach this development with an open mind and appreciate the depth of feeling from both sides. Unfortunately, one side is going to be disappointed; but such is the way of democracy. I have been impressed with the way both sides have made their case and believe that both have made a number of very valid points. I look forward, Mr Speaker, to hearing other speakers before I make up my mind on this issue.

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