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Land release vow to be overturned

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  • Land release vow to be overturned

    Land release vow to be overturned

    Siobhain Ryan | January 09, 2008

    ONE of Kevin Rudd's earliest election promises - to free up commonwealth land for housing - has been undermined by a federal Environment Department proposal to set aside much of its first property release for conservation.

    Two days after the 2007 election was called, the Labor leader visited a housing development near the Ingleburn army base in southwest Sydney and promised that a Labor government would push harder for the release of such land to homebuyers.

    "We think it's time this was fast-tracked, that we cut through the red tape and release land wherever we can," Mr Rudd said at the time.

    The Environment Department's draft recommendations on the sale of the Ingleburn base yesterday called for at least 144ha of the 311ha property to be protected.

    The developer would be required to retain 90 per cent of the endangered Cumberland Plain Woodlands, which cover 160ha, under a conservation agreement.

    It would also have to preserve the commonwealth heritage-listed military precinct, covering 120ha, on the site.

    The property is believed to be home to several species of bat and the Cumberland land snail, which are listed by the state for protection.

    The Ingleburn base is the biggest single block of surplus commonwealth land in the country available for release over the next three years, according to a recent Howard government land audit that had allowed for up to 4680 homes on the site after remediation and redevelopment.

    It was to form part of a larger Edmondson Park estate, which the NSW Government-owned developer Landcom hoped would eventually accommodate up to 7500 dwellings.

    A Landcom spokeswoman said yesterday it needed to review the Environment Department report before commenting.

    Opposition housing spokeswoman Sussan Ley said the Government should take account of environmental concerns, including the Cumberland Plain Woodlands, in setting the site's conditions of sale. "But it does surprise me, however, that the (conservation) figure is 90per cent and I think common sense should prevail," she said.

    Housing Minister Jenny Macklin yesterday deflected questions about the amount of land that would be quarantined from housing construction at Ingleburn.

    "Unlike the previous government, the Rudd Labor Government is committed to expediting the disposal of surplus commonwealth land to increase the supply of land for housing," Ms Macklin said.

    "This will help address the housing affordability crisis."

    Labor campaigned hard on housing affordability last year and was the first of the major parties to offer first-home buyers tax breaks and councils help with community infrastructure.

    But its plans to identify surplus departmental land and assess whether it could be sold were announced well after the Coalition embarked on its land audit.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx