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Dollar land deal
July 29, 2011
Imagine buying 70 hectares of land for just one dollar - the equivalent of about 1400 normal residential blocks.
In the dying days of the New South Wales Labor Government a profitable mining company was virtually given 70 hectares of crown land - land that’s supposed to be owned by the taxpayers, and the asking price was just one dollar.
Phil Stuart is the loser in the deal. He's the general manager of the Hunter Plant Operator Training School, a small not for profit heavy machinery training organisation that used the land for two decades, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure and buildings. Now it’s facing an uncertain future.
At the time Stuart felt like the community and its needs had been largely ignored.
“We were incredulous. We really didn’t understand, and didn’t think something like that could happen,” he said.
“We trained tens of thousands of people through here over the 23 years we’ve been here. We feel if the land was going to be sold for a dollar, we should have had first offer.”
Instead the area was given to another tenant on the land - White Energy, a publically listed coal technology company worth $675 million.
“The previous Labor Government gave priority to a profitable mining company over the interests of ordinary working people. We believe we had over a million dollars worth of assets that have been taken from us, and gifted to an ASX listed top 200 company,” Stuart said.
The land is just a two hour drive from Sydney, on the edge of the NSW town of Cessnock, in the wine-growing Hunter Valley.
The sale was only registered a week out from the New South Wales State Election that dumped Labor from power after sixteen years of control.
LJ Hooker real estate agent Bryce Gibson is gobsmacked, saying the sold land is valuable
“I’ve never heard of 70 hectares ever being sold for a dollar in my nearly ten years in real estate,” he said.
“Looking at the structures that are on it - the roads going into it, and the sheer enormity of 700,000 square metres of land, as it is now, it could be well in excess of $1 million dollars.”
Under conditions of the sale, the mining company is not allowed to sell off the land, but if that changes, and the land is zoned, then the company is in for a financial windfall.
“Tens to hundreds of millions of dollars is achievable for a site such as this,” Gibson confirmed.
Peter Meddows is a local senior truck driving instructor who's appalled at what he sees as a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.
“At the moment they’re not allowed to sell it, but no rich company is going to have that amount of land sitting around doing nothing forever,” he said.
“If they’re going to sell it to a profitable mining company, it should have been sold at commercial value. It’s as simple as that. That’s how it should have happened.
“The money could have been spent in our community, or across the wider Hunter Valley. A million dollars can do a lot,” Meddows concluded
Sometimes described as the "alternate vote", preferential voting is a uniquely Australian system of voting. Based on the principle that the winner should have 50% + 1 support, it allows voters to number the candidates in order of preference. This system is used in the House of Representatives