Many locals will have seen the articles in the South East Advertiser about the sale of the Bulimba Barracks. Now that the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the State appear to have ended, the next questions are: what will the Commonwealth do with the sale, and what will Graham Quirk do to make sure the Master Plan is upheld in the interests of residents? I've written to the relevant federal Minister about the sale. My letter follows.
Terri Butler MP
Shadow Assistant Minister for Preventing Family Violence
Shadow Assistant Minister for Universities
Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality
Federal Member for Griffith
17 November 2016
The Hon Mr Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Defence Personnel
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
Bulimba Barracks – defence property disposal
I refer to the above and to my telephone conversation with a representative of your office today.
The Bulimba Barracks is a site of great significance in the Bulimba area, in my electorate of Griffith. The Member for Bulimba, Ms Di Farmer MP, the local councillor, Cr Shayne Sutton, and I have taken a keen interest in the Commonwealth’s decision to sell the site, after the Army’s logistics unit relocated some time ago.
We understand that a large parcel of land (slightly more than 20 ha) is to be sold. As you would be aware, until recently the Commonwealth was negotiating with the State of Queensland with a view to an off-market sale, consistent with the Commonwealth Disposals Policy.
Cessation of negotiations with State of Queensland
In yesterday’s South-East Advertiser, a “Defence spokesman” is reported to have said that the Commonwealth has decided to “pursue an open market sale process to achieve the market value of the site in accordance with the Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy”.
As you would know the Policy explicitly contemplates off-market sales, and contemplates both sales at market value, and concessional sales. It is wrong to imply that only an open market sale would be “in accordance with” the Policy.
Accordingly I would respectfully invite you to consider whether the national interest is better served by a private sale, or by a sale to the State of Queensland.
However, in the event that, as reported, you intend to pursue an open market sale, my fellow local representatives and I are keen to better understand the Commonwealth’s intentions as to the site.
Yesterday’s South East Advertiser quotes a Defence spokesman as saying that Defence was continuing its heritage investigations as part of its due diligence before selling the property. Yet the Defence website on the same day said that due diligence had been completed. Are you able to advise the status of the Department’s due diligence work in relation to the site?
Contamination and remediation
In September 2015 the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence wrote to me in response to four letters I had sent, throughout July and August 2015, requesting for information about contamination at the site. He advised that the Environmental Investigation report had been finalised on 21 July 2015. He advised that the report had found, inter alia, that:
- there was a possibility some imported fill had been used;
- that there may be three underground storage tanks, and that the probability of their leaking was high;
- there was residual hydrocarbon impact on the site;
- sandblasting activities that had occurred had the potential to cause elevated radiation levels in the surface soil;
- asbestos containing material is located in some of the building fabric, and localised fill containing asbestos had been identified in the surrounds of one building, and additional areas of fill containing asbestos were likely throughout the site.
Are you able to advise the progress of any remediation work, and whether all remediation work will have been completed before the open market sale?
My fellow local representatives and I are, as you would expect, keen to be reassured that the Master Plan will be respected, and that both the Commonwealth, as the vendor, and the Council will take all reasonable steps to ensure that it is upheld. I would be grateful if you would confirm what steps will be taken to ensure the market is aware of the Master Plan, and to ensure that the purchaser commits to complying with it?
As you would know, the proposed timing for the sale has changed from time to time, as circumstances have changed. Are you able to advise the Commonwealth’s current intentions as to when the site will be on the market, and how, when and where it will be advertised?
Contribution to the community
The local residents have welcomed the Army and Navy into the community for seventy years. Now that it is to be sold, my fellow local representatives and I are also keen to understand what will be done to ensure that local amenity, and the impact on local residents, is a foremost consideration in the sale of the land.
As you would know, we have previously called on the Commonwealth to commit a portion of the proceeds of the site to the local community, as a contribution to the additional infrastructure that will be needed if, as is expected, the site is developed for residential purposes. We have called on the Commonwealth to commit 10% of the proceeds for that purpose. The Commonwealth has, to date, refused to make such a commitment. I now reiterate that call.
Thank you for considering this correspondence. I look forward to your response. If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me or, in my absence, your office may wish to contact Mr Ben Driscoll of mine.
Terri Butler MP
Federal Member for Griffith