TALK IS CHEAP PNNPQS

8 Nov 2014 4:54 PM -
Dr. Ursula de Jong, President of Nepean Conservation Group, addressing the Red-Alert Picnic Day Gathering on 26th Oct at Point Nepean National Park. Photograph courtesy of Rob Varney

State election 2014: Talk is cheap

Date

November 6, 2014 - 10:00PM

THE AGE

Jason Dowling

Politicians make it easy to be cynical.

On Wednesday Premier Denis Napthine told Neil Mitchell it was coincidence a taxpayer-funded transport advertising campaign ended on the cusp of the state election. 

Labor leader Dan Andrews is running around making election promises for new schools in Melbourne and a metro rail commuter service in Bendigo seemingly costed at 1980s prices.

And on Melbourne Cup eve a long-time Liberal Party member and the head of the state's main developer lobby group was appointed chairman of government development agency Places Victoria. 

But top marks for mischievous politics has to go to the 50-year lease agreement for 64 hectares of the historic Point Nepean Quarantine Station made in the last hours of the government. 

There was no press conference, no media release, no vision of the Premier shaking hands with the winning proponent, just a quiet posting on the department's website first sighted Wednesday morning. 

The lease covers all the buildings and "public areas including the existing car parks, the Parade Ground, Wombat Oval and Jarman Oval". 

There is no mention of the cost of the lease or what happens if the developer goes broke? Does the taxpayer pick up the pieces? 

And here is the kicker, the 50-year lease may be terminated if geothermal water tests do not support the commercial hot springs planned for the site. 

So why sign a 50-year lease hours before a state election based on a business model that is not proven? Why not wait until the water test results are in and there is a proven model? 

Expanded public use and development of the Point Nepean Quarantine Station has been on the cards for decades. Few would disagree the site has strong potential as a tourist and community destination. 

But signing last-minute deals in opaque circumstances will not bolster community confidence in the process or the development. 

It is little wonder the Victorian National Park Association has labelled it a "back-room deal". 

Politicians like to talk about integrity and trust in election campaigns, actions too often tell a different story.

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Point Nepean National Park site leased to developer

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