Page 2600 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 10 August 2016
a. below $5 million—agreement by the LDA Board with advice to the Minister for Economic Development or the Minister responsible for administering Chapter 4 of the Planning and Development Act 1997 …
Madam Speaker, there is no other framework; there is no other option. The planning and development land acquisition policy framework direction of 2014 is the LDA’s guiding document.
However, it seems the LDA did not like this policy, and the LDA established a way to determine when this direction from the minister applies and when it does not. Over a year after the direction was issued, the LDA board, on 27 August 2015, endorsed a new policy or guideline, which somehow overrides the minister’s direction, which was notified to the Assembly. Conveniently, the acquisition of this particular block occurred a couple of weeks later.
However, in September and November, after the acquisition had been made, an LDA official and the Chief Minister were claiming that the block was purchased by strategic acquisition and therefore in accordance with the direction that Mr Barr had issued. However, another LDA official then changed the explanation and said it was a project-based acquisition. This is the story that the government has run with ever since.
How the LDA can delegate away the minister’s direction is beyond me. The direction states that the LDA board must approve acquisitions under $5 million, but that seems to have been ignored. We know that, because the head of the LDA has advised us that he informed the board after the acquisition was made. Of course, this is a very serious governance issue. The board appears to have been sidestepped by the agency, and the responsibilities of board members seem to have been compromised.
The first valuation was a year before the block was acquired, and the second valuation advice was about three months before. There was plenty of time to take that acquisition to the LDA board. There was plenty of time to show those valuations to the LDA board. However, we just do not know, and I suggest that the LDA board was never shown those valuations.
The second issue is the fact that the authority backing up the purchases seems to be lacking.
To add to this, even if we do accept that the board could issue a guideline to get around the minister’s direction—that is, the land acquisition policy framework—that does not explain how the government claims to have made three other purchases of land outside that framework in the first half of 2015. Let me reiterate this. The board apparently agreed a way to buy land by not complying with the minister’s direction on 27 August 2015, yet land was acquired in December of 2014, January of 2015 and June of 2015 without complying.
Even if you accept that this particular block in question was given authority by this new guideline of 27 August 2015, it does not explain why the previous three