Brisbane's backroom park deal buried
Reports say Brisbane City Council (BCC) signed a multi-million-dollar contract to sell city parkland to major donor to the Liberal National Party.
The ABC says it has obtained a conditional contract for the sale of land near Brisbane Airport that was signed in August last year without public tender, advertisement or auction.
If the allegations are true, it could mean the $3.3 million proposal was made in breach of Queensland Government regulation.
The 8,521-square-metre block in question is designated “parkland area” in the 2014 Brisbane City Plan, setting it aside for public use for recreational, cultural and educational activities.
The ABC says it has seen documents that reveal the council was approached in April last year by business owner Boon Tan to buy it for $2.75 million.
The land is next to Dr Tan's East Coast Car Rentals business at Nundah.
Dr Tan allegedly made a deal with the BCC to buy the vacant block for $3.3 million, plus GST.
The near-$500,000 difference between the first offer and the final amounts is “half a million dollars of public benefit... for the ratepayers,” Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said.
The reports say that a solicitor for the Office of the Lord Mayor and BCC chief executive, then acknowledged that a deposit of $363,000 was received in the form of a bank cheque last year.
It is alleged that the cheque came from Nudgee Capital Investments Pty Ltd, of which Dr Tan is a director and shareholder.
But sale still needed an exemption from the requirement for a public tender or auction.
The application for the ministerial exemption reportedly claims the $3.3 million offer from Dr Tan “represents value for money”, even though “no community consultation has been undertaken relating to the disposal of the property”.
Queensland’s Local Government Department issued a statement to the ABC saying it;
“Sought further information from Brisbane City Council before providing a final recommendation to the Minister, whether to approve Council's request to be exempt from an open tender process.”
“BCC failed to provide sufficient evidence to support an exemption from an open tender or auction for the sale of this land. The Deputy Premier did not approve the exemption.”
The matter has now been referred to the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
There is speculation that the Labor State Government leaked the documents to the media to damage the Lord Mayor’s chance of re-election on March 19.
“Three weeks before an election, after they've had it sitting on the desk for six months, does seem passing strange,” Cr Quirk said.
Dr Tan has maintained that he approached the deal with the utmost propriety, despite having close ties with the LNP and the Quirk administration in particular.
His company, East Coast Car Rentals, donated $47,300 to the Liberal National Party during the 2014-2015 financial year. There was also about $11,000 donated that financial year by Dr Tan or companies that he directs.
There was even a donation for $3,000 listed as “Council Campaign Fundraising Contribution”.
Dr Tan was named Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Multicultural Businessperson of the Year in 2013.