A Baird Government Bill that will make it easier to sell swathes of public land to developers and private interests passed the Upper House last night and is now one step closer to being law, despite Labor’s attempts to block it. 

After almost eight hours of debate, the Crown Land Management Bill 2016 passed the Legislative Council in the early hours of the morning by 20 votes to 16.

The Bill – which was only presented to Parliament a fortnight ago - will go to the Lower House today where it is expected to pass rapidly.

While the Government caved into a number of amendments, there were still question marks over the ability of the Government to bypass checks and balances and move Crown land to freehold control.

Labor voted against the Bill which includes a sneaky clause that enables the NSW Government, without considering the public interest, to transfer public land to other government agencies at the stroke of a pen, automatically robbing it of its status as Crown land.

Shorn of its Crown lands protections, agencies like Urban Growth and the Government’s real estate agent - Property NSW - will be free to sell the land to the private sector.

Further question marks lingered over the status of iconic public reserves like Centennial Park, Moore Park and Parramatta Park and their status under the new Bill.

The provision could also subvert land claims by the Aboriginal community under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 – as claims can only be made on Crown lands.

Currently, the Government must give the community 14 days to comment on any proposal to sell or transfer Crown land. Crown lands include parks, showgrounds, cemeteries, beaches, sporting ovals, sporting clubs, greyhound tracks, golf courses, state parks, caravan parks, even bodies of water such as Pittwater, as well land held under tenure for a variety of purposes.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

Almost half of NSW is in the public’s hands and most people would want it to remain that way, despite the best efforts of Mike Baird to sell it off.

“The Baird Government wants nothing more than to put a for sale sign up on public land and amenities. By avoiding scrutiny it hopes to avoid a public backlash.

“We know its attitude towards public land is cavalier, we have seen it with parklands like Centennial Park and the Parramatta Park. Once this becomes law then there’s no stopping this Government.

“The community needs to know what is at stake and the Baird Government is doing its level best to ensure they don’t know about it.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Lands Minister Mick Veitch

“Once transferred, legislative protections over the use and sale of these parcels of Crown land would no longer apply.

“The Government has rammed this Bill through, without allowing the community or Parliament to consider what is a radical rewriting of Crown land legislation in NSW.”