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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2770

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - My electorate at present is absorbing most of the southward growth of the cities of Sydney and Wollongong. In 10 months, electoral enrolments have risen by nearly 13,000. Most of this growth is in the Campbelltown and DaptoKiama sub-divisions. With this sort of growth, obviously there will be enormous pressure on land for building purposes, and land prices have been rocketing not only because of the demand but also because of speculation and inadequate action at the State and local government levels. There are only 1,000 acres of land left in the area immediately south of Wollongong in my electorate which is not now owned or spoken for.

As honourable members are aware, at present the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is negotiating with each of the States with a view to forming land commissions whereby Australian Government money can be spent through the States for the purchase of land so that land may be developed and leased or sold at cost. The New South Wales Government has wisely placed a freeze on land prices in the southwest sector of Sydney and some stabilisation of the giddy spiral may be effected. However, unless the State Government nominates an area there is no way the Australian Government can desirably affect land prices. It goes without saying that there is much more that State and local government can do if they use their powers or their heads. For example, section 10 of the State housing advances legislation now allows the States to do something with respect to even their housing commissions.

There are few local government areas in my electorate where there are not constant rumours and alarm about alleged land deals and corruption, but rarely can anything be proved. I heard recently that land to be sold at Nowra at 6 o'clock in the morning by the Lands Department of New South Wales was all sold by 6.10 that morning. Many allegations have been made in the Shellharbour Shire Council by a councillor about an estate known as Nob Hill at Albion Park. I do not wish to comment too much on the allegations because I have no proof one way or the other. The issue has been canvassed widely on television and in the local Press. But I have a pretty firm idea about what is happening.

My colleague in the New South Wales State Parliament, Mr George Petersen, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Illawarra, made a speech on this matter on 20 September 1973. He pointed out that a firm known as Fender Management, on the application of a Mr Moclair, received approval in principle from the Shellharbour Shire Council in October 1972 to develop 295 blocks of land at Albion Park over an area of 75.5 acres with 14.48 acres of open space. But a strange thing happened: Without changing the title, without providing a bit of kerb and guttering, without obtaining a certificate of availability of water from the Water Board and without obtaining a guarantee of electricity supply from the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, the land is being sold by Mr Peter Wilson to unsuspecting home buyers - 311 lots now - at prices ranging from $10,500 to $14,000. By the previous map issued to the Council, he was to reserve 14.48 acres of open space; but on the map now available to the Council there are only 3 tiny lots of open space that appear to be about 5 acres altogether.

Who approved this? It is alleged that it was not the Council. There has been no approval of the Council although it now has a copy of the revised map. The 'Illawarra Mercury* of last Saturday quotes Mr Wilson as having said:

I attended a meeting at the Council with the Mayor, engineer and town clerk. The whole subdivision has been approved.

As I have said, by 28 August some 119 of 311 lots had been sold at prices ranging from $10,500 to $14,000 and averaging $12,000. What sort of set up is it when that type of trafficking takes place? If it did take place in that way, one must take serious account of local government and the way in which it acts. Surely there is a need for tightening the legislation. Surely such matters should be investigated. If it is found that these matters are being handled in that way and that no regard is being had to decisions of democratically elected local government, and if speculators can go their own merry way without getting approval from the local planning authorities, it is time that the Housing Commission and other authorities took up all land development. I used to think that the State Planning Authority held the whiphand too much, but these sorts of things alarm me greatly. If we take, for example, the average cost of a block of land at $12,000 and consider that all the developer has done. is to knock a few trees over, a 10 per cent deposit on that block would amount to $1,200 and the development costs would average $3,000. So it looks as though the so-called developer is using deposits to finance the development of the blocks.

I put it frankly: These developers were granted approval subject to the guarantee of water availability, and they did not get that guarantee. It is unlikely that they will get it because some areas are so high that a reservoir would be needed before water could be piped to them. The developers were granted approval subject to developing some areas as high rise areas. Normally that is an indication to a land developer to write his own ticket and to make his own bank, but the developers in this case have not done that because obviously they are short of capital. As far as I can see, they simply wanted to use the purchasers' money. They are not interested in providing facilities for people. I do not want to go into this matter to a great extent, but I have here an advertisement for Nob Hill which sets it out. It is typical of many of these real estate advertisements. They contain nice drawings. I think there is a good case for saying that much of this is dishonest and untruthful advertising.

It has been stated that the Shellharbour Municipal Council had approved the development in principle subject to certain conditions. The Council admits that certain conditions have not been complied with, but officers of the Council maintain that it is not altogether the Council's fault and that nothing has been done illegally. A 34b certificate from the Water Board has to be obtained before final approval can be given but, as I have said, it has not been obtained. All this is subject to much local controversy and I have no intention of commenting publicly on it as the situation is obvious for all to see. The Mr Wilson whom I named said in the 'Illawarra Mercury' of 15 September 1973 that he had offered people their money back. I do not know what he means by this. I believe that this practice has commonly been described as 'gazumping' The point I make is that if these sorts of operations can go on where land is not developed before it is sold under rather strange conditions, then surely governments should be able to enter into land deals on the same basis. At least if developers are to be allowed to develop land after they have accepted money on it, a government could give more stable guarantees and security to purchasers. I think that local government could well act as agents for this process, and as much funds would not be needed it seems to me to be obvious that a lot more could be done. I think that one of the greatest blights on the present Government in New South Wales is its failure to act on land prices. In fact, it exploits the market itself ruthlessly. I think that Sir Robert Askin promised a royal commission on prices in 1971. He has not kept that promise. People in my electorate feel that the Commonwealth will involve itself in land dealings but it will concentrate on only a few selected areas. They realise that money cannot be spent all over the State and that land prices cannot be brought under control everywhere, but when these sorts of deals are going on the people cannot understand why Commonwealth, State or local governments cannot act on their behalf.

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