Edward Mandla
Failed Negotiations for Sale of Wattle St Depot to the State Government as a School

Published On: 08/12/2014

Lord Mayor, at the last council meeting you moved a Lord Mayoral minute which made it seem the sale the Wattle Street Depot to the State Government was a done deal. Either we were casual with the truth or we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The path through these negotiations of selling to be a much-needed school is now into its second year. In all matters such as this, it is perhaps worthwhile to empathise with the other side in this matter and place ourselves in their shoes.

We are an instrument of the State of New South Wales, the same Government whose Department of Education wishes to purchase this site. It’s like the money going from the left pocket of a pair of trousers to the right.

The State of New South Wales has the right of compulsory acquisition without just terms, which they have at no time sought to exercise.

The Minister for Education could acquire the site for a dollar, I imagine with little political fallout. This alone should indicate that the State Government was negotiating in good faith.

The question we must ask ourselves is “are we negotiating in good faith, and what principle should we be guided by?” There is no other argument than beneficence in this context. Are we securing the most good for the most people? Are we doing our best to maximise human potential? A difference of opinion of the valuation based on usage type is neither here nor there when we apply these tests.

What we forget in these purchase negotiations is that the State of NSW will build and run a Public School on this site servicing our residents, a huge cost in itself in perpetuity that we are not footing the bill for. At no time has this entered into our considerations that we are aware of.

We will also get a contaminated site cleaned up that we seem to have neglected to do in our rush to build large milk crates. That alone tells you we need to look at ourselves in this matter. When people don’t want to do something it is the easiest refrain in the world that “we don’t have the budget for that”. When someone really wants to do something, they find the money to do it.

We find the money for all sorts of projects such as city farms and trigeneration that, were we not to build, no one would be worse off for. When the time comes to assist the children and parents of this area, we have been left dragging out feet over a minor difference in purchase price in the scope of our resources. Trigeneration tonight will cost more than the apparent $8.5 million dollar difference the Lord Mayor says we have with the government.

The human cost is real for the parents and children who will have to travel to another school or not live in our LGA. That is unacceptable on any version of events.

I suspect that as education is not, as the Lord Mayor points out, within the ambit of Local Government, service to our community certainly is. At the moment this is a contaminated site that services no public good.

We have been too cute by half in our negotiations. We have tried to put lipstick on a contaminated pig and sell the site for top dollar to a developer, as “unlimited potential” ignoring it’s for a public good such as education.

The State Government shouldn’t have to put up with such poor behaviour and has done the right thing in walking away to consider other options, rather than exercising its powers of compulsory acquisition.

We have to view this failure as substantially ours. To that end, I urge the Council to do the honourable thing. This is to accept the good offer from the State Government of $74 Million and let the parents and children of this LGA enjoy their new school, which we will not have to bear the cost of building, but our residents will benefit enormously from.

Edward Mandla
December 2014

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