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Coordinator-General's Secret Deals on Swansea Development

21 September 2016

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, there has been much criticism from the Greens and of course members of the Opposition about the Office of the Coordinator-General and the role it plays.  From our point of view as Greens we are concerned about the fact that it rolls out the red carpet for developers, clears a path for any legislative or regulatory blockages, keeps it all very secret and commercial in-confidence, and then Tasmanians find out at the last minute what the deal is.

Since the first report in the Mercury newspaper a few weeks ago about the proposal to build a very large development on the foreshore at Swansea, I have received correspondence from constituents and I would like to read out one email of concern.  It says:

I am writing about the secret proposal to build a monstrous marina at Waterloo Point in Swansea and hoping you can pass my concerns on.  The site proposed is totally unsuitable.  It would be better to build a second marina at Triabunna, which has a deep port and depressed economy and would benefit greatly.

The site proposed at Swansea is geologically and culturally unsuitable.  There was a study completed in the 1970s when my father was on the Glamorgan Council that showed if a marina breakwater was built, there was a risk that the local beach would lose its sand due to changes in sand deposition.

The proposed site is shallow and sandy with sandbars and is exposed to large waves during southerly weather patterns - the 'Southerly Buster', as the locals call it.  It is also on a local surf break.  Also it would involve taking over land that forms an Aboriginal cultural heritage walk and bird rookery.  The proposal also includes taking over the local recreation ground, which includes the local Swansea Golf Club and building three houses on Waterloo Point, which is common ground and should not be given to a private developer.

This development came to light through a report in the Mercury.  It became clear nobody on the Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council knew anything about this proposal before the Office of the Coordinator-General.  No resident in Swansea knew there was a development proposal that sought to acquire a very large area of public crown land - or 'common ground', as my constituent calls it - which is coastal crown land.  It has a beautiful golf course on it, public space, a bowls club, Aboriginal heritage and a bird rookery.  It is at a critical place in Swansea and the proposal, as I understand, is for a residential development and for there to be a marina and floating houses.

This stirs in me a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.  For so many years of my life, and that of the community I was part of, involved trying to stop an intrusive marina‑style and canal estate development at Ralphs Bay on the eastern shore, and in particular to acquire crown land that is the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area.  Luckily, we averted that one.

It is projected that sea levels will rise anywhere between two to six metres by the end of the century, with the rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet, and now the Antarctic ice sheet.  We should not be countenancing developments that would put more people close to the ocean in an age of sea level rise.  There are also provisions, Madam Speaker - and you would well know this as someone who worked very hard on the State Coastal Policy in the last term of government - in the State Coastal Policy 1996, which, if they had any teeth, would prevent a development of this nature.  Regrettably, we do not have a state coastal policy with any teeth but it is better than anything I have heard put forward by the Liberals in government.

I am representing the Greens and people in Swansea who were shocked and disturbed at the news of this proposed development being discussed in secret through the Office of the Coordinator-General.  They are concerned their common ground and public lands will be handed over to a private developer.  This is the way more things are going in Tasmania.  We have the Minister for Parks and State Growth negotiating through the Office of the Coordinator-General with private developers, to allow exclusive access to public protected assets. 

If any developer in Tasmania wants community support, a social licence for a quality development, we encourage them to be open about it and not go behind closed doors into the Office of the Coordinator-General, and not to keep the local community and the local council in the dark for the longest time possible.  If you are so confident your development is a winner, take it to the people and test it with them first.  The most important stakeholders are the people of Swansea.  There will be people in Swansea who support this development because the area needs jobs.  We recognise that, but it is the kind of jobs and development that are important.  The people of Swansea should be a participant in that conversation.

Mr Barnett - Oh, they support it.  What kind of jobs?  Who gets to choose them?  So, you are choosing the jobs. 

Ms O'CONNOR - What I am saying is the people of Swansea should be participants in that conversation.  Secret deals are being done behind closed doors - your government is not the first to do it; the Lennon government made a mastery of it and the Bacon government before that.  I am not singling you people out for special treatment.  There is a state coastal policy which, if put into effect, would not allow this sort of development so close to the coast.  There is a key principle.  You are talking about public crown land at a public golf course and Aboriginal cultural heritage.  The people of Swansea had no idea about any of this.  The Office of the Coordinator-General is having secret conversations with the private developer, and we do even know who it is yet.

Time expired.