Council reneges on community promise

The removal of some environmental land and pocket parks is welcome but Central Coast Council’s asset sales program is still full of loose ends, according to the Community Environment Network (CEN).

27 July 2021


CEN’s Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut, said he had written to Council Administrator, Mr Rik Hart, urging him to adopt and alternative recommendation at the tonight's Council meeting.


“Unfortunately, while the community has won some battles, the war to protect our community assets is far from over,” Mr Chestnut said.


“The Community Environment Network’s prevailing concern about the report that Mr Hart will now vote on is that it still includes a motion to sell assets currently classified as Community land,” he said.


According to Mr Chestnut, Community land cannot be sold. It must be reclassified as Operational land first.


“It does not make sense to resolve to sell it until it has been reclassified,” Mr Chestnut said.


“Mr Hart has given multiple assurances to the public that he is not interested in selling Community assets at this stage,” he said.


“CEN hopes Mr Hart will adopt an alternative recommendation that eliminates the sale of any Community land until the reclassification process has been completed. The current recommendation is really putting the cart before the horse and it implies the reclassification process is irrelevant.


“If Mr Hart intends to do a backflip and include Community land in the asset sales program, we’re asking him to adopt a two-step approach by resolving only to reclassify – not sell - assets at this stage.


“This will enable Council to initiate the reclassification process and give the community confidence that corners will not be cut,” he said.


“We were also gob-smacked to find the following statement in the staff responses to community consultation:


“In some cases, the decision to rezone and reclassify land is not a consequence of Council’s financial situation but to release the site’s full potential for the community better realised by the private sector.”


“This statement contradicts everything the community has been told since October about the purely financial need to sell assets and suggests a broader privatisation agenda exists within Central Coast Council.”


Mr Chestnut said his letter to Mr Hart highlighted other significant concerns about the asset sales program including the use of property development experts to carry out the role of an independent property advisory committee.


“We are concerned that only five properties out of the 19 remaining for sale are to be sold on the open market – how can this maximise the financial benefit of asset sales?


“CEN questions why so many sales are being made subject to a “Deed of Option to purchase” which gives significant power to the purchaser/developer.


“We are concerned about the lack of transparency around the $23.9 million assets that have already been sold.


“Mr Hart also needs to clarify, once and for all, the exact dollar figure that needs to be recouped from asset sales to satisfy Council’s commercial lender. We have heard as little as $40 million and as much as $60 million and that is a big difference.”


Mr Chestnut said the Council report was confusing as it stated that it can enforce sale conditions. “However, once a property is sold what stops the land being sold to another party which council has no contractual arrangements?


“CEN sincerely hopes that Mr Hart adopts an alternative recommendation to what has been proposed on Tuesday evening.”

Grapevine News Online

Central Coast NSW

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