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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 18 April 2008
NSW Stateline nails Sartor contradicting Director General of Planning on market sensitive land
Mood:  sharp
Topic: nsw govt

The transcript will become available soon here for 18 April 2008.

NSW Planning Minister Sartor is alleged to have acted partially in favour of a developer Stockland in relation to sale price of crucial public land from the owner Wollongong Council.

At issue is the integrity of a valuation of public land. But there is a trick in such questions.

The guiding rule from our time as a local councillor at Waverley in Sydney 1995 to 1999, as ex officio co director on the Board of the Waverley Woollahra Process Plant (which was earmarked for multi million dollar asset disposal), as a former corporate lawyer, and still a solicitor today:

the value of market sensitive land is by definition what the market will pay, not simply theoretical guidelines. The market is set by the buyers and sellers in this case only two entities - Wollongong Council and Stockland.

Theoretical valuations based on theoretical buyers and sellers don't count for a hill of beans compared with an actual buyer and seller in real negotiation. These two constitute the market. It all depends what it's worth to those two parties in all the myriad of factors from how much do they need the money to how much do they need the land, what they can afford, how patient, how the rest of the world influences their view etc etc etc.

To tediously repeat the point, as director of Waverley Council's building and development department Paul Anderson was fond of telling we councillors in 1995-9 the real market value of any land is WHAT THE MARKET WILL ACTUALLY PAY. No more or less. Theoretical valuations are just that.

In this case we have Wollongong Council as custodian of a public land asset at Sandon Point, and an actual buyer Stockland developer. The value of the land is based on each party's bargaining power: Land that was compulsory to the success of the whole development commencing so naturally this makes the land value much higher to that particular buyer. That's what a market system is. It's not an objective value for anyone else, or an average of anything. 

That's why the Dept of Planning director general Sam Haddad has correctly written in a briefing note, as reported,  that the State Govt ought not get involved in the price being negotiated for the public land between the buyer and seller. The allegation, and its a heavy one, is that Sartor did get involved as a facilitator, or in his own words do "mediation", rather than arms length consent authority.

Apparently the council was demanding a high price and Stockland wanted Sartor to intervene on the price. The allegation is that Sartor intervened to reduce the sale price below the price being bargained for between the public owner and private company buyer. If so that would be partial as in corrupt conduct.

One speculates that Stateline have documentation leaked to them from someone aggrieved by the State govt (including Sartor) sacking the political leadership of Wollongong Council?

We heard on the Stateline show tonight widely divergent numbers like $4M or $8M and $700K for parkland 'needed' for an access road and it all sounded quite strange to us. Talk of land swaps as well. The compere Dempster said he has submitted the information with the NSW Independent Commision Against Corruption.

Stateline ran extensive footage of a journalist, without doubt the brave Andrew Clennell of Sydney Morning Herald at a press conference about a week ago, challenging Premier Morris Iemma on perceptions of corruption. Clennell also challenged on the NSW Govt's 'totalitarian' tendencies  

It was a brutal and savage exchange barely covered by strained scoffing laughter by the politicians. That called up the sinister systemic "joke" of corruption inquiries. In one segment Sartor even called up Dempster's role in the Fitzgerald Inquiry into the corrupt Bjelke-Petersen. This is particularly ironic as Part 3A of the Planning Act that Sartor uses to  railroad approval of development is based on a 1970 Act of the Bjelke Petersen era (according to Jeff Smith, principal solicitor of the Environmental Defender's Office).

Sadly we saw Indigenous MP Linda Burney running interference for the Premier in the press conference which shows what a tough operator she is and also how implicated in sanitising this allegedly corrupt government.

Burney's seat of Canterbury is adjacent to Iemma's seat of Lakemba, with both underpinned in part by Canterbury Council as best we can tell. Iemma's people control Canterbury Council (according to recent research for an environmental team leader job interview this writer actually participated in about 3 weeks ago at those council chambers). 

Conclusion: Burney will be dependent on Iemma's goodwill for her pre-selection.


Posted by editor at 9:47 PM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 19 April 2008 3:53 PM NZT

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