Port Stephens Council Acquisition and Divestment of Land policy to tighten the screws on marketing requirements for surplus land

COMMUNITY BENEFIT: A council spokeswoman said it sound management of property that enable the council to make profitable investments like at 155 Salamander Way.
COMMUNITY BENEFIT: A council spokeswoman said it sound management of property that enable the council to make profitable investments like at 155 Salamander Way.

Port Stephens Council’s future property transactions could come with a stronger transparency pledge under a new policy.

The proposed policy is said to include only minor changes but would require a “more rigorous” marketing requirement for surplus land the council wishes to sell.

And while key council staff will remain able to investigate sales the proposed new policy will require a formal resolution from councillors.

A spokeswoman said it was sound policy for council to divest itself of land that was surplus to needs though she refused to put a value on council’s land assets.

“Council owns operational land across the entire local government area of Port Stephens, including larger holdings at Raymond Terrace, Medowie, Nelson Bay, Salamander Bay and Soldiers Point,” she said. 

“The values vary and depend on the zoning and the demand for the land in each particular location.”

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The revised policy, which went before councillors on Tuesday night, goes on public exhibition for 28 days.

The spokeswoman said this wasn’t a prelude to more land sales this year.

“A number of parcels were identified as surplus in council's 2007 Open Space Review,” she said.

“In 2016, the Department of Planning and Environment approved reclassification and/or rezoning of these parcels to permit divestment by council. 

“While a number of these have already being sold, there are none that council is planning to sell this financial year.  These properties should not be confused with Council's Operational Landbank holdings.”

When asked if the former Shoal Bay playground might be sold she said this was “not currently up for review”.

“Council is focused on making sound economic investments that generate non-rate revenue, which ultimately benefit our ratepayers,” she said.

“Some of these profits are reinvested but much of it is put towards projects that benefit our community.

“A good example would be the development of 155 Salamander Way, Salamander Bay.”

Councillors Giacomo Arnott and John Nell moved and seconded the policy revision on Tuesday night.

Cr Paul Le Mottee said he had “no particular issue with the policy” though he questioned how it was presented.

“This seems to be another case where unless I read the new and old policies side-by-side, I don’t know what the differences are,” he said.

“It causes me to ask, once again, that we in future be provided with a summary of the changes.”

The general manager Wayne Wallis pointed out that there was in fact a timeline on page 17 of the policy with an overview of how the document had changed from version-to-version.

Cr Le Mottee said it was a step in the right direction.

“If it can be included on the first page as a summary of what the changes are it would be helpful,” he said.

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