Crown Land Perpetual Leases
Mr IAN COHEN: My question is directed to the Minister for Lands. Given that the Crown Lands Act 1989 land management principles include that environmental protection principles be observed in relation to the management and administration of Crown land, that the national resources of Crown land be conserved wherever possible, and that where appropriate Crown land should be used and managed in such a way that both the land and its resources are sustained in perpetuity, how will the Department of Lands abide by these principles in light of the Minister's announcement of a plan to sell off 11,000 Crown leases in eastern and central New South Wales? If the proposed covenanting system goes ahead following conversion, what measures will be taken to ensure that State Forests cannot log the protected blocks under the profit a prendre scheme?
The Hon. TONY KELLY: I have answered this question previously in the House. It is still part of the barrage coming from the National Parks Association, which is complaining about the sell off of those 11,000 perpetual leases. I reiterate the answer I gave previously: There are 11,000 perpetual leases, and they are exactly that—they are perpetual; they are forever.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: It is 99 years forever.
The Hon. TONY KELLY: It is 99 years forever and again and again and again, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition interjects. These leases are not the same as those for the land in Canberra, which are for only 99 years. Those who have bought the land over the years paid practically freehold prices. Some of the lands are suburban holdings, household blocks, and some are farms. Although people have paid practically full freehold prices for the land over the years, the Government was still charging them rent. That rent was a small administrative fee, which was costing us more to administer than we were collecting in rent. All previous governments allowed people to purchase the land.
As I have said before, the Coalition Government placed a moratorium on about 3,000 parcels of land and would not let them be sold because of possible environmental factors. Since then this Government has introduced legislation that protects native vegetation and threatened species, and provides a whole host of other protections, whether the land is freehold or Crown land. The Government is now of the view that, in the main, the moratorium is no longer appropriate. However, before the perpetual leases are sold the Government has provided that, generally speaking, there will be no subdivisions on the land. We are consulting with the Department of Environment and Conservation on the sale of all these blocks. If the department believes that the current legislation does not adequately protect environmental factors on these blocks we will not sell the leases. However, I expect that to be a very small number. I am happy to report that people have already applied to purchase just over half of the leases. People have two years in which to make an application, and there is about a year to go.