Outline of the Process for the Sale of the CSIRO Site

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Date: 25 May 2011

URGENCY: Note that CSIRO said around the beginning of May that it expects to resolve (much of ) Step C around the end of June.

A. CSIRO identifies it as surplus so CSIRO is on this list with a target of 2011-12

http://www.finance.gov.au/property/lands-acquisition/register-surplus-commonwealth-land.html

B. Disposal of Commonwealth land procedures come into play

The policy is outlined at:

http://www.finance.gov.au/property/lands-acquisition/commonwealth-property-disposals-policy.html

  • three sorts of sale: disposal for housing and community outcomes on the open market; priority (like the first but not on open market); concessional sales.
  • ministers involved (usually I guess not personally)  Jenny Macklin (Housing), Penny Wong (Finance), Kim Carr (as CSIRO is in his Science portfolio).

(It seems that, because some of the site is protected under the EPBC Act – and the environmental values shown by the Biosis report – and perhaps because of aboriginal, built heritage and contamination issues) – that Tony Burke (Environment) will also have a say.  Certainly Council resolutions mean they will be approaching him. )

The detailed policy is at:

http://www.finance.gov.au/property/lands-acquisition/docs/commonwealth-property-disposals-policy.pdf

The document includes:

“All other priority sales including those in the above categories, which have a potential political or social sensitivity, heritage or environmental significance, or which are likely to arouse State or Local Government or community protest, require the personal approval of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.”

That means Penny Wong is personally involved if this is a “priority sale” (not on the open market). We do not know, at this stage, as to whether it will be a “priority” sale.

(It is believed that the policy includes that the proceeds go to the agency, if an agency owns the land.)

C. CSIRO prepares for the sale

See also the report to Bayside Council 3 May 2011 item 10.7

http://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/3_May_2011_Ordinary_Meeting_Agenda_without_confidential.pdf
and the minutes at:
http://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/3_May_2011_Ordinary_Meeting_Minutes_without__confidentialx.pdf

 

1. CSIRO’s “due diligence” will cover existing conditions such as services, pollution, heritage, aboriginal land, environmental values etc. It would also include a “planning assessment” covering ?market conditions, and relevant State and Bayside policies etc.

2. the planning assessment includes CSIRO liaising with the State Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, about the planning controls* with Bayside City Council being consulted as part of that process.

It is not clear if Ryan Smith, the State Environment Minister, would be involved.

* the planning controls are crucial.

These could include (as recommended in the Biosis report? and/or Highett Structure Plan – check) application of the PCRZ (Public Conservation and Resource Zone (high level protection for the HGW) and the PPRZ (Public Park and Recreation Zone) for open space.

They would also include controls on built development such as height, set-backs, vegetation protection…

Bayside Council (3 May) resolved to advocate for a range of controls including prescriptive management of the interface with neighbouring residential areas (Middleton Street and Somerset Mews/the former Highett Primary School site and the site to the south) as attached.   Note these do not include heritage or aboriginal issues or prescriptive height limits (although asking for the controls to be ‘consistent’ with the Highett Structure Plan preferred controls for the site.

D. The actual sale – and afterwards.

Note the final word is presumably with Commonwealth Finance (who also at some point have to approve the type of sale within the disposals policy and the legal conditions of sale).   They may also receive the cheque, although the proceeds go to CSIRO.

Various developers are known to be expressing interest already (to Finance?) and there would need to be a decision on a “priority” sale (not on the open market).  There may be tensions between the State and Commonwealth, for instance if the Commonwealth would prefer a priority sale to an organisation committed to social housing…..

On or before completion, the State Planning Minister formally imposes planning controls using S20? of the Planning and Environment Act.   There may be no legal compulsion for these to correspond to what was foreshadowed earlier in the process but I reckon it is highly likely they will be the controls put forward in the sale documentation.

Subsequently the new owner(s) will have to decide what to do.  Sell on for a quick return? Put up a proposal that is challenging in terms of the planning controls, eg. higher than the preferred maximum height if there is no mandatory height limit….