The Baird Government is paving the way for a potential fire sale of public land with the creation of a backdoor provision to transfer swathes of crown land to other government agencies. 

A sneaky clause in legislation before the NSW Parliament enables the NSW Government to transfer public land to other government agencies, automatically robbing it of its status as crown land in the process.

Denuded of its crown lands protections, agencies like Urban Growth will subsequently be free to sell the land to the private sector.

The provision could also subvert land claims by the Aboriginal community: under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 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.

NSW Labor fears this two-step process – buried deep in the 200-page Crown Land Management Bill 2016 – could open the floodgates to a slew of sales. Crown Land covers almost half of NSW land mass.

The last time the Liberal/National Government tried to undermine the sanctity of crown lands was two years ago when the Lands Minister Kevin Humphries tried to bar Aboriginal land councils from making claims over beaches and other coastal areas. Following a public backlash the Government was forced to back down and the Minister was sacked.

Labor will fight to amend the legislation to strike out the offending clause and is calling on the NSW Government to provide for a longer period of community consultation of the legislation so as to avoid it being rushed through the Parliament.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

Premier Mike Baird is quite literally preparing to sell the ground from beneath your feet.

“This is a sneaky attempt by this Government to give its own real estate hucksters the green light to put up a sale sign on public land.

“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.

“Labor is calling on the Government to ditch this insidious clause and reinstate the protections around public ownership of land.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Lands Minister Mick Veitch

“The Baird Government needs to rule this sneaky provision out to ensure Crown Lands principles and provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act are not undermined.

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