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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3745 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Government's. The Government has built into its package some very significant carrots for rural leaseholders to take up the new 99-year leases, and with that the requirement to develop a land management agreement for that lease. Firstly, the payout value for their existing lease is based on dry sheep equivalent value, which, I understand, is lower than market value.

Secondly, the leaseholder gets a 15 per cent discount to compensate for the land management responsibilities imposed by the LMA. Then the leaseholder is given the option of paying this amount either as a lump sum or over a 30-year period. Rural leaseholders are therefore getting a pretty good deal to convert to 99-year leases. It must be such a good deal that the Government has had to build into the legislation some restrictions on leaseholders' opportunity to make a windfall profit if they sell their new lease within 10 years. Even so, leaseholders still get to keep 50 per cent of the windfall gain. It does concern me that no financial analysis appears to have been done by the Government on what has been the opportunity cost of offering such a good deal.

Has the Government done any analysis of what potential revenue the Government is losing, relevant to the existing land rent system or other payout options, relative to what the ACT is gaining in terms of better land management? While I support land management agreements in principle, I have my doubts that they will be developed and implemented effectively in the ACT.

I will be putting up amendments at the detail stage to improve the application of LMAs. But I would like to make some general comments now. Firstly, there are some 240 rural leases in the ACT held by some 150 lessees and covering some 40,000 hectares. Potentially all of these leases will require the development of LMAs over the next 18 months. I understand, however, that the Government is not allocating any more resources to the administration of rural leases within the Department of Urban Services. There is, therefore, a real danger that the LMAs will be developed and assessed in a quick and superficial way to meet the demand of leaseholders who want to move to the new leases. Secondly, part of the LMAs relates to the identification of specific works that need to be undertaken on the land to protect nature conservation values and the resources necessary to do these works.

These costs were then to be shared between the leaseholder and the Government. I therefore find it amazing that the Government has allocated so little money to these works. The Government announced in the 1998-99 budget that $250,000 over three years would be placed in a rural conservation trust. This would amount to a bit over $1,000 per rural lease. Strangely enough, no mention has been heard of this trust since this announcement in mid-1998. The Minister did not even mention it in his presentation speech. I note that Environment ACT has recently received a grant of $100,000 for the trust through the Commonwealth Natural Heritage Trust, which boosts the available funds. But it is still a pittance compared to other expenditure by government, such as the $600,000 being spent on our New Year's Eve celebration, or the $300,000 being spent annually on the FAI car rally. A related concern I have is that the Government has not provided an open and accountable mechanism by which this trust money will be distributed to rural lessees.

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