Friends of Malabar Headland (FoMH) has started this page in January 2015 as a place to record information, link to documents and provide a commentary on the ongoing controversies and uncertainty regarding the future disposition and use of the sections of Malabar Headland that remain in Commonwealth Government ownership.
The Gillard Labor government was committed to:
- Closing the Malabar Rifle Range.
- Remediating the contaminated rifle range section of the headland.
- Working with Randwick City Council and the community to agree on uses for the ex rifle range section, once remediated.
- Transferring the Eastern Bushland (the section of the headland to the east of the rifle range) to the News South Wales Government as a formal National Park; together with the Western Bushland (the section of the headland to the west of the rifle range), which is already a national park, this would constitute the Malabar Headland National Park.
The Gillard government was committed to not selling any of the headland to property developers for residential and commercial development.
In June 2014, an FoMH member who monitors the internet for media and other references to Malabar Headland, discovered that the current Liberal Government had engaged a consultant to provide advice on the future of the headland. The consultant, Matthew Nation of Nation Partners Pty Ltd, described his consultancy on Nation Partners website:
The true scope of Matthew’s brief, couched in “management speak”, was somewhat opaque. However several phrases made the Friends of Malabar Headland concerned that the current Liberal Government might be interested in discovering the viability of selling all or part of its headland estate to property developers for residential and commercial development:
an initial Business Case that identified and evaluated development scenarios at Malabar Headland”
“led a strategic assessment of the site’s potential”
“completed an initial review of strategic planning, transport and infrastructure factors, comparable development projects and the technical feasibility of options”
“taken thinking to a new level”
“demonstrated the potential and value that can be unlocked
Friends of Malabar Headland asked questions of the Department of Finance and Development (DoFD) and alerted our political representatives and the media. Shortly afterwards the page was removed from Nation Partners website.
In order to find out what was behind Matthew Nation’s description of his assignment, its removal from his website and the refusal of DofD to clarify the situation, the Sydney Morning Herald submitted and funded a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
The FOI request was eventually partially met – documents were released but were heavily redacted. From these documents it is clear that the Liberal Government is interested in discovering the viability of selling all or part of its headland estate to property developers for residential and commercial development.
What can be learnt from the documents?
In circumstances of which we have no knowledge, it appears that Matthew Nation’s assignment was transferred to a larger organisation, Coffey Projects (Australia) Pty Ltd, who developed an Initial Business Case (IBC) for the divestment of the Malabar Headland site. For the IBC, click here.
The IBC was prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Finance and is dated 17 September 2014. It is clear that the authors of the document understood that commercial development of the site was an option they were free to consider and recommend. This means that the Gillard government’s commitment to not sell any of the headland to property developers for residential and commercial development has been abandoned by the current government.
The terms of reference for the IBC are revealing:
3.1. Statement of Requirements
The project must deliver an outcome which realises government policy and maximises
the return for the Commonwealth within 3-4 years.
The project must manage the obligations to current/potential licence holders on the site.
The Commonwealth should not be involved in activities that are more efficiently
performed by the private sector, such as developing the site.
A maximised finacial return for the Commonwealth, obtained in the immediate future is mandatory; there is no mention of restoring ownership of any of the land to the New South Wales Government or Randwick City for social return and community benefit.
Development of the site by the private sector is claimed to be beneficial and efficient.
Chapter 3 identifies a “Do nothing option” and two options to meet these requirements:
- 3.2.1. Option 1 – Do Nothing
- 3.2.2. Option 2 – Transfer as Public Open Space
- 3.2.3. Option 3 – Mixed Use Development
Chapter 5 provides a cost analysis of the “Do nothing option” and two options to meet these requirements:
- 5.1.1. Option 1 – Do Nothing
- 5.1.2. Option 2 – Transfer as Public Open Space
- 5.1.3. Option 3 – Mixed Use Development
Chapter 6. Recommendation states Coffey’s preferred option. However the chapter is totally redacted:
The redacted recommendation chapter consists of the following topics:
6.1. Preferred Option
6.2. Project Schedule
6.3. Project Delivery Strategy
6.4. Proposed Governance Structure and Accountabilities
Friends of Malabar Headland will seek to have this redaction lifted.
At Chapter 7 Scoping Study, the report recommends the Department of Finance proceed with development of a Detailed Business Case (DBC) for remediation of the site, further investigation of the identified options and development of a divestment strategy.