Community concern over sale of Maleny Precinct land

By Mitch Gaynor

MALENY residents are frantically lobbying councillors to block the controversial sale of a parcel of land in a key community precinct, which they fear is being sold without proper consultation.

The Sunshine Coast Council will tomorrow (May 26) consider a proposal to sell an 8223sqm parcel of land within the Maleny Community Precinct (MCP) to the owner of an adjacent block for $850,000 (Lot 1).

The MCP is a 128-hectare area which includes heritage sites such as Pattemore House, environmental areas, ecological zones, a 4.5km network of walking trails and residential land.

The agenda of the council’s ordinary meeting also proposes buying a smaller parcel for $130,000 (Lot 2) for council to be able to provide future infrastructure such as sewage services.

According to the meeting agenda, agreement is being sought from councillors to approve the sale as well as agreement that the sale should be exempt from going to tender or auction.

Council argues that the sale of the parcel of land without the need for tender passes the public interest test on the grounds that: Council has identified a need for the access point through the proposed Lot 2; Council does not require the land identified as surplus and forming the proposed Lot 1; and Council could compulsorily acquire the land in proposed Lot 2, however that would lead to more expense to council than offering the land swap (with consideration).

“Given the remote location of proposed Lot 1 and restricted access, it is not considered appropriate to dispose of the parcel by way of tender or auction,” the agenda states.

But the move has infuriated residents including Marek and Libby Malter who have written to Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson and councillors expressing their “dismay and disgust” at the proposed sale.

“Public land should be sacrosanct and under no circumstances be traded off for development particularly without proper community consultation and public transparency,” they wrote ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.

The couple said in the interests of transparency that if the council was to sell that land it should at least take it to tender.

A valuation of Lot 1 came in at $780,000, below the sale price of $850,000, but the Malter’s argue that it was impossible to know the real value of the parcel without going to tender.

“It is understood that the council engaged the services of two valuers,” they wrote.

“Surely this land should go out to tender and not rely solely on these valuations.

“As has been shown in this recent federal election, integrity and transparency are issues at the forefront in the minds of voters.”

Division 5 Councillor Winston Johnston said the sale price was above valuation and that there were no alternatives to the sale.

“The only viable way of development of the land is to sell it to the adjoining property owner,” Cr Johnston told GC&M News. It is understood the developer’s intention is to build an over 50s/retirement village.

“I’ll be moving an amendment that the net proceeds be quarantined for infrastructure services,” he said, adding if the amendment failed then that money would go back to council consolidated revenue.

Other residents said they were concerned that the proposed lot falls outside the residential sub-precinct and would limit future public space close to town. Further, they argued that a retirement-lifestyle development would do nothing to address affordable or social housing issues that affect the area.

Cr Johnston said the purchase of Lot 2 – for $130,000 – was agreed to allow council options for future infrastructure development.

“In the future if we’re going to put in an amenities block for people that walk the pathway and use the facilities, they have got to have water and sewerage access,” Cr Johnston said.

The Malter’s argued that this would be an inappropriate use of the proceeds.

“Why should the sale of land be used to fund amenities?” The Malter’s asked.

“Surely as ratepayers we are entitled to have these services (if they are deemed essential) installed as part of our rates and not have to sacrifice public land in order for that to happen.

“Please consider deferring your vote on this very important issue until due and proper process has happened.”

Another resident, Frances Harper, said while there may have been community engagement in 2010, the current community would not feel as though it had been consulted.

She said community housing would gain broader support along with a commitment for funds to be spent on the precinct itself, not infrastructure, to benefit the wider community.