I write in response to your article ‘Lot 490 will be an election issue’ and commend Mr Cooper and the Tweed community for its continued interest in the future of this land. However, I would like to respond to comments attributed to Mr Cooper in this article .
By way of background, Lot 490 is now two lots – Lots 1 and 2 DP 1117599. Lot 1 of about 11 ha was regarded as suitable for development while Lot 2 of about 15 ha is riparian land adjoining Cudgen Creek and has significant environmental values.
Despite community protests, the previous Labor Government chose to lease Lot 1 to Leighton Properties for the development of a high end eco-tourism facility. In 2013 Leighton Properties decided the project was no longer financially viable and withdrew.
On 13 June 2013 an Aboriginal Land Claim was lodged over Lots 1 and 2 DP 1117599. This means that any dealings in the land are on hold until the claim has been determined.
I have met with many individuals and community groups to discuss the future of Lot 490. On 30 July 2013 I met with Mr Cooper and others and was advised a new petition against any development of Lot 490 had over 5,000 signatures and the number was growing. As this was well short of the 10,000 signatures required to trigger a debate in Parliament, I suggested we table one petition with 500 signatures to bring the issue to the Minister’s attention. Further petitions of the same size would be tabled at regular intervals to keep the issue current with the Minister, however, I would hold off on presenting the first one to see if the numbers of petitioners would quickly reach the 10,000 mark instead.
Two weeks after this, I received an irate call wanting to know why the petition had not been tabled so, on 20 August 2013 the petition was tabled in the House. At no time was the petition “lost” as is claimed.
A second petition of 500 signatures was also received but at the request of the petition organisers this was returned as they had decided to wait until the petition had reached 10,000 signatures at which time I would present it for debate.
Mr Cooper’s suggestions that somehow the Nationals delayed consideration of the petition by sending it to the wrong minister indicate a lack of understanding of parliamentary procedures, something a simple call to either the Legislative Assembly Table Office or myself could have clarified for him. Members do not decide which minister is to receive the petition; this is determined by the Table Officer. Our input ends when the petition is handed to the Table Office.
The issue was a complex one and the Table Office sent it to the Minister for Planning in the first instance. It was redirected to the Deputy Premier (who is responsible for Crown Land) and a formal response was received on 30 October 2013. The gentleman who led the delegation to my office, Trevor Reece, was advised of this response.
It is now almost 12 months since the original petition was handed to me. I am very surprised that the urgency and importance of the issue expressed at that time has seemingly been put on hold despite achieving the necessary 10,000 signatures needed to bring the petition to the floor of the Legislative Assembly. I stand ready to do this and have been waiting many months for the opportunity. Unfortunately for those who signed the petition in good faith, it seems the future of Lot 490 is less important than scoring political points in the media.
For residents interested in the facts rather than the spin, the original petition and the response from the Deputy Premier remain on the website www.parliament.nsw.gov.au or a copy can be obtained by calling my office on 07 5523 4816.
Geoff Provest, member for Tweed