SCOT MacDonald, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, has admitted that six hectares of prime Port Stephens koala habitat shouldn’t have been sold-off as surplus education land.
He’s blamed a lack of communication between departments. The site, which overlaps the Mambo Wanda Wetlands, was sold at auction in June for $250,000.
Fairfax Media can now reveal that property developer Paul Unicomb, the sole-director of PBU Nominees, was its buyer.
The land is presently zoned E2 Environmental Conservation which restricts its development potential.
There’s growing speculation about what plans he might have for the site: Chiefly, that it could become an environmental offset for a different development.
But Mr Unicomb has declined numerous requests for interview and comment.
In hindsight, Mr MacDonald said the government shouldn’t have sold it.
"If there is surplus land like this being sold we need to jump on it for habitat," he said.
"The [Education] Department just put it in a bucket with Finance and their sole remit is 'how much money can we get'?”
Mr MacDonald said there should simply have been more communication between the departments.
"I'm happy to admit that we need better process for reserving these kind of parcels of land for habitat," he said.
These comments followed a meeting about plans for a koala hospital, between Mr MacDonald, Port Stephens Council, Hunter Koala Preservation Society and an adviser to the Environment Minister Mark Speakman.
The Koala Crossroads campaign has highlighted the need for such a facility. Mr MacDonald said he hoped to establish a working group to include representatives from the Environment Minister's office, high-level tourism advisers and Roads and Maritime Services, as well as the council and the koala society in October.