ASSISTANT Treasurer Michael Sukkar has reassured mayor Karen Williams and residents that talks with council over a contentious Birkdale bushland block would continue.
Mr Sukkar said a budget reference to the land becoming housing was probably due to sloppy annotations.
“This ... got caught up in the policy of housing affordability but it was never intended because we’ve been negotiating through Australian Communications and Media Authority with Redlands for a couple of years and that was never an option,” he said.
Asked whether he agreed with Bowman MP Andrew Laming who said confusion was caused by clumsy budget wording, Mr Sukkar said he would probably use a more colourful term.
“But clumsy’s a very polite way to put it,” he said.
Councillors were outraged when last week’s federal budget stated that up to 400 houses could be built on the Birkdale land.
During a visit to Redlands on Tuesday, Mr Sukkar said the government did not want the land to be used in ways that were inconsistent with community hopes and expectations.
“The only thing I don’t want is that land sitting there for another decade with a big fence around it, underutilised and costing the federal government money to maintain.
“We think it can be put to better use.”
Mr Sukkar said he had held discussions with Cr Williams before meeting with residents.
“...I’m supremely confident that we’ll be able to come to an outcome that best reflects what the community would want.”
Cr Williams said she had presented Mr Sukkar with a petition signed by almost 4000 residents calling for the land to be sold to council off-market rather than sold for housing.
She said she was confident that the land would be retained for the community.
“We now need to negotiate a fair price that represents value for money for the city,” she said.
“Our residents can’t be expected to pay developer prices and compete for the land on the open market.”
Mr Sukkar said he and the treasurer had instructed their departments that surplus Commonwealth land be put to better use.
“… That better use, in many cases, in fact in most instances, has nothing to do with housing,” he said.
“Often it’s about public open space, it’s about community facilities and other things.”
Mr Sukkar said residents’ suggestions for the land – including recognising the historical significance, developing a koala conservation area, education and tourism facilities and recreational areas – highlighted the purpose behind the government’s divestment policy.
“There are at least three dozen better uses for this land than what is currently occurring,” he said.
“That’s what’s driving my desire to see surplus Commonwealth land given back to communities.”
A further 30 hectares of land owned by Air Services Australia would also go through a similar process in about a year.
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