COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Development was the mantra of the CLP when it fought for election three years ago. With just a year to run in its first term on the treasury benches, after a decade in the political wilderness, where are we at?
We in The Centre are still in the economic wilderness: Not much is happening aside from throwing public money at police stations and a courthouse (pictured) that may sadly be necessary but are producing nothing.
Let’s look at private investment in the context of that other election promise – cutting red tape, and dealing with investors in a professional manner.
The $100m Melanka project is in limbo as government planning and development approvals are still not to hand.
The project is also uncertain because in the absence of statutory approvals, the 170 dwellings, the 85 room hotel, professional office space, restaurants, cafes and a 110 place child care centre can’t be offered for sale. Without firm sale contracts in hand for much of the space the developers would be unlikely to go ahead.
The projects put up by the Hatzimihail group seem extravagant but, having been formally proposed, they deserve professional consideration.
The first one, centred on some 10 hectares in the Desert Knowledge precinct, has now been dragging on for about two years.
In an update we published on June 25 we quoted an experienced broker as saying that setting up deals of this kind normally has a time frame of 90 days: It’s either in the can by then, or the deal’s off.
Now spokesman Alex Hatzimihail has made it clear the group has given up on Desert Knowledge and is negotiating with the trust managing the Blatherskite Park show grounds.
As we reported this week, a key condition in the Letter of Intent is that the Blatherskite Park Land Trust “will require a solid financial position to be appropriately presented by THG [The Hatzimihail Group] that will demonstrate both the ability to commence The Project on a stage by stage basis and to complete The Project in its entirety as agreed between the parties.”
The clock should now be ticking now on the 90 days: Prove you’ve got the money and we’ll go for it.
Watch this space.
Another government inspired private enterprise project is Whittaker Street with a railway station, hotel, shops and cultural gallery.
According to a seasoned commercial developer, when such a project is awarded to a company – in this case Sitzlers – it is standard procedure in Australia for all the submissions to be made public so that The People, who own part of the land, can judge the government’s decision.
The Alice Springs News Online asked on June 25: “Can I please have copies of the agreements between the government and Whittaker Street Developments?” We also asked what was the value of the public land put into the deal.
This was the response: “While negotiations are ongoing with the proponent the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment is not able to provide any further information. The agreement is confidential. This process is governed by the Crown Lands Act and does not fall within the NT Procurement Act.”
We asked newly Independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley (pictured) to find out a few things – after all for the best part of three years she was a CLP Member and Minster and was till sitting in the centre of political power in the NT.
Acting on a tip-off from a substantial source, we wrote to her on August 5: “It seems there is no substance to [the Whitaker Street project] – a charade to give the impression of development while there is none (beyond government buildings that make no lasting difference to our economy).
“Can you please provide me the following. All this would be answered as a matter of routine in other jurisdictions but has so far been denied to us:
“Who apart from Sitzlers put in an expression of interest?
“Copies of the Sitzler and any other expressions of interest.
“Valuation of the public land made available for the supposed project.
“Its current status.”
Ms Lambley replied: “I’ve reached media saturation point and I will not be doing any media for the time being.”
Ms Lambley provided the following statement:-
Since becoming an Independent about two months ago I have been spending my time actively engaging with my electorate – door-knocking, markets, attending functions, schools, sporting and community events etc.
I now have more time to canvas the view of residents and actively assist people.
For the most part it is business as usual, however the shadow of the imminent changes to electoral boundaries is cast over the future.
The final electoral redistribution will be tabled in the September sittings of Parliament.
It has been a contentious time with my resignation from the CLP and the redistribution involving the likely scrapping of the Electorate of Araluen.
I cannot see much value in engaging in the media until this redistribution is resolved.
Parliament sits for the first time in months next week. This is the first sittings for the CLP minority Government. A fascinating and challenging period in NT Politics.
I respect the Alice Springs News and will communicate with you when I am ready.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA