Craig Warhurst

Mary Valley dam rents concern

TOO late for many Mary Valley residents, the Traveston Crossing dam issue yesterday became a major issue in the Brisbane media.

After more than three years of being ignored, the people of the Mary Valley - those who are left - finally found their suffering recognised in the capital, where the votes are.

Years of intense propaganda effort crumbled for the state government when The Courier-Mail yesterday gave appropriate recognition to one of the more socially destructive and financially improper tactics used by the government to clear unwanted persons out of the Mary Valley.

The paper broke the news that the government had paid $25.3 million for a 973ha Bollier Park cattle property, while leasing it back to its former owners for $20 a week.

It is a deal typical of what has occurred throughout the dam area.

CONCERNS by the Auditor General at low rentals on leaseback properties were a major part of the new information in yesterday's Brisbane front page.

The article prompted renewed concern in other media, including the ABC, which has frequently been noted for its effective coverage locally and on Brisbane radio.

Opposition Infrastructure spokesperson and Gympie MP David Gibson accused the government of wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars buying properties for a project which, as anti-dam activists have frequently said, has not yet been approved, even by the Queensland Co-ordinator General.

That approval is necessary before the project is even submitted to Canberra for assessment by Environment Minister Peter Garrett, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Mr Gibson accused the government of making taxpayers pay “for Labor's mistakes”.

He told reporters in Brisbane that “the taxpayers of Queensland rightly should be concerned that the government is buying properties with no approval to build the proposed dam”.

He said money spent on an unapproved project was likely to be money wasted.

As the issue continued to unfold in state Parliament yesterday, the Speaker ruled out of order a question without notice on the issue, apparently basing his ruling on a technicality.

Maryborough Independent MP Chris Foley directed his question on property acquisitions to Premier Anna Bligh.

He said the transaction (in relation to the Gear property) related to a property purchase for $25 million, with a rental of $20 a week.

This, he said, “shows an investment return of 0.004 per cent a year. Could your explain how that is a good investment?”

Speaker John Mickel ruled the question out of order because it had not been addressed through the chair.

Auditor General Glenn Poole told the government its leaseback deals involving below-market rents should be more public.

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