NSW paid almost as much as commonwealth for land near Western Sydney airport

The New South Wales government paid almost $5m to acquire a two-hectare block of land near the Western Sydney airport, roughly the same rate paid in the federal government’s much-criticised acquisition of the Leppington Triangle.

a sign on a dry grass field: Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The dealings of both the state and federal governments in the area surrounding the proposed airport have attracted significant controversy in recent weeks, following damning revelations aired in both a federal audit and a state anti-corruption hearing.

The audit found the federal infrastructure department’s payment of $30m for a 12.26-hectare block near the airport, known as the Leppington Triangle, was scandalously high, four times higher than the next valuation and 22 times higher than the rate the NSW government paid for its portion of the land.

a sign on a dry grass field: File photo of land near Western Sydney airport. NSW paid $4.7m for a two-hectare block, which is $2.35m per hectare, roughly the same rate paid for the Leppington Triangle.

© Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
File photo of land near Western Sydney airport. NSW paid $4.7m for a two-hectare block, which is $2.35m per hectare, roughly the same rate paid for the Leppington Triangle.

Property records reveal the state government has paid a similar per hectare rate for a block of land nearby on Medich Place in Bringelly.

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In December, it paid $4.7m for a two-hectare block it needed for its South West Rail Link extension corridor, which will provide a rail connection to the airport and the aerotropolis, a massive development to the airport’s south.

The per hectare rate paid by the government was $2.35m. That compares to the $2.43m paid by the federal government per hectare for the Leppington Triangle.

The state’s transport department said the Medich Place property was assessed by an independent valuer.

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“This particular property falls within the South West Rail Link extension corridor, which will be a vital transport connection for Greater Western Sydney for generations to come,” a spokesman said.

“Consistent with NSW government policy and statutory requirements, the property was acquired as part of the reservation of this transport corridor.”

“The purchase followed the provisions of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991, with the oversight of an independent valuer to assess market value and ensure a fair and equitable outcome for both parties.”

It is understood the property was acquired after the owners initiated hardship provisions in the state’s land acquisition laws, which allow for earlier acquisitions if delay would cause the person hardship.

Publicly available property records show the $4.7m price tag is well above other recent property sales for two-hectare properties in the region. The closest was the sale of a $3.6m two-hectare property in nearby Rossmore in May.

Related: ‘The big guys get whatever they want’: Western Sydney airport, wealthy landowners and the Coalition

The Guardian has not found any evidence that the owners of the property have sought to influence the state government, either by lobbying or donations.

The federal government’s purchase of the Leppington Triangle is now the subject of a police investigation and has continued to build pressure for a federal anti-corruption commission this week.

The government has long promised such a body, but is yet to produce draft legislation, blaming the pandemic for its delay.

The Labor senator Kristina Keneally said on Wednesday that NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption was able to bring “sunshine where there is darkness” to the state’s dealings.

“It exposes corruption to light. It ensures that the people of New South Wales can have confidence that where a politician or a public official has acted corruptly, there are the powers and the capacity to bring that to light, and where appropriate to bring criminal charges,” she said.

“We have a [federal] government that has presided over a string of scandals, whether it’s the Western Sydney airport land deal, the sports rorts scandal … in my own portfolio of home affairs we learned this last week that Australian Border Force is brought up in a correction inquiry in relation to the procurement of the Cape Class patrol boats that patrol our maritime borders.

“Quite frankly, every day seems to bring another corruption scandal and it demands a national anti-corruption commission.”

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