Decision looms for former military headquarters on Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head

Decision looms for former military headquarters on Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head

Today’s story by Deborah Snow, Sydney Morning Herald 11-12 October, 2014 shows that the fight is far from over, the article raises some further serious questions about the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust’s processes. 

We have reproduced the article below or you can read the story on the Sydney Morning Herald website here.

Decision looms for former military headquarters on Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head

Deborah Snow, Senior Writer

To a casual passer-by, the cluster of low-key red brick buildings perched near the end of Sydney Harbour’s scenic Middle Head might seem unexceptional, apart from the spectacular outlook.

But the complex, a former military headquarters known as 10 Terminal, is set to reignite a smouldering debate over the future of public lands around the harbour.

A two-year battle is fast approaching a climax, with federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt or his parliamentary secretary, Simon Birmingham, expected to rule before the end of the month on a plan to convert the site to commercial aged care.

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, the Commonwealth body with guardianship of the site and the headland park that surrounds it, must also approve or reject the plan, but trust chief executive Geoff Bailey has been openly sympathetic to the aged care proposal, telling Mosman Council this year that the elderly would benefit from the “soothing quality of the natural setting.”

The council, the National Trust and local activists making up the Headland Preservation Group oppose the proposal, which would hand the commercial operator a 25-year lease to develop an 89-bed residential and treatment facility.

The National Trust says it “opposes residential development on publicly owned sites on the harbour because it alienates public land to private interests.”

The preservation group says the aged care plan submitted by would-be developer Middle Head Health Care would cause substantial demolition of military buildings of heritage significance, and contravene the core vision for the headland park where the complex sits.

It says the 25-year lease risks becoming permanent because of the difficulty of moving ageing residents out of their accommodation once they were established.

Opponents also question whether Sydney Harbour Federation Trust board member Sandra Hook should have any part in the decision, given that Ms Hook also chairs Retirement Living Today, a private digital company pitched at businesses targeting ageing Australians.

A SHFT spokesman told Fairfax Media Ms Hook would not stand aside from the decision because “there is no commercial relationship, past, present or proposed, between [the aged care] proponent and Retirement Living Today or Ms Hook.”

But Headland Preservation Group president Linda Bergin says there is a perception of a conflict of interest “even if there is no present commercial arrangement with the proponent.” She says Ms Hook should abstain from the decision.

Ms Bergin claims Mr Bailey and the SHFT have closed the door to considering alternative uses of the site, which might better fulfil the trust’s charter for maximising public enjoyment of former defence lands.

“Despite a year of trying, we’ve had very few opportunities to have any two-way dialogue with the trust even though community consultation is required under the trust’s act” she said. Mr Bailey denies there has been inadequate consultation.

Also disgruntled with the SHFT is entrepreneur Matt Blomfield, who in 2012 spent more than half a million dollars preparing a boutique hotel proposal for the 10 Terminal site after the trust requested expressions of interest from hoteliers. He says that after working with the trust over many months, it rejected his proposal in August 2012 without explanation and “stonewalled” when he tried to get answers.

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1 Comment on "Decision looms for former military headquarters on Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head"

  • jane edwards says

    The dishonesty in this whole application process, Is frightening. The SHFT’s lack of conscience for allowing a proposal such as this, to even be considered, is beyond belief! Their actions repeatedly shake my faith in common sense and decisions for the common good.

    A disillusioned community member.

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