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Tuesday, 23 August 1994
Page: 5

Senator FORSHAW —I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. I understand that the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments have reached agreement on the sale of the HMAS Nirimba site. Could the minister provide the Senate with details of the outcome of that agreement?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Earlier today, Mrs Virginia Chadwick, the New South Wales Minister for Education and Training, and I issued a joint press release announcing the establishment of an educational precinct at the former HMAS Nirimba site. The Commonwealth has accepted the New South Wales government's offer of $20.8 million for land, building and related infrastructure. This announcement represents the culmination of a lot of effort by federal and state parliamentarians and officials.

  A consultative committee under the chairmanship of the local federal member, Russ Gorman, was set up to consider future occupants of this site. The committee submitted its report to me in July 1992. In responding to the committee's recommendations, the Commonwealth government was committed to achieving the best outcome for the local community from the sale of the site. Today's announcement means that we have gone a long way towards making this happen.

  This government is delighted with the outcome. It would have been easier for Defence to look for a simple solution and one where Defence alone was the winner. The education consortium at Nirimba is the first of its kind in Australia. It will incorporate a major TAFE college, a campus for the University of Western Sydney and two separate senior high schools to be run by the New South Wales government and the Catholic Education Commission. It is not difficult to understand why the negotiations have been complex and have taken some time to finalise, but the results are well worth the effort. I appreciate the effort of all those involved.

  The benefits to the western suburbs of Sydney will be enormous. Firstly, it will provide a wide range of educational and training opportunities for our youth and could be a catalyst for the development of other more specialist educational institutions in the area. Secondly, there will be a significant boost to the region, including the creation of new jobs and the flow-on effect that that will generate.

  This sale was the first stage in the disposal of Nirimba and the Schofields site. The New South Wales government will assist in expediting the initial planning approvals prior to the ultimate development of the adjoining Schofields airfield property and other small parcels of the Nirimba land not included in the educational precinct. Flying operations at the Schofields airport will cease later this year.

  The Department of Defence and the Blacktown City Council will work together to bring about the rezoning of the land to complement the educational activities. It is proposed to develop the mixture of employment and residential uses of the Schofields part of the site, again providing ongoing benefits to the wider community. This is an important agreement that has been reached and one of which the federal and New South Wales governments can be proud.