Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (12:42): I am pleased to rise to say a few words on the Land (Revocation of Reservations) Bill 2023. Showing my great interest in this piece of legislation, I will begin by, I think, castigating others for praising the member for Brighton for going for 27 minutes on this bill. I do not think he deserves any praise whatsoever. I am saying that tongue in cheek of course, for Hansard’s purposes, but really –
Danny O’BRIEN: That is why I had to add the irony in ‘for Hansard’s purposes’. Well done to the member for Brighton, but there probably are some speakers who have given him some praise to pad out their 10 minutes. I will not do that.
I am very pleased to see this legislation come forward for a couple of reasons. One is the reference to Merriman Creek at Seaspray, which has been an issue that I have been dealing with with constituents for some time this year. It is literally a situation where the surveying was done incorrectly – I do not think by government surveyors; I think it might have actually been by a private surveyor – and a house was built, as it happens, right on Merriman Creek in a beautiful spot at Seaspray in the beautiful electorate of Gippsland South. In fact I have canoed past the house in question on Merriman Creek; it is a lovely spot. But yes, the house, I believe, was built across what is Crown land reserve. As I said, my office in particular has been liaising with the department and the government to try and address this issue for a number of months this year, and so I was very pleasantly surprised when this legislation was introduced a few weeks ago to see it on the list.
I am surprised in some respects because it is far from the only one of these sorts of situations that I have had to deal with. It may be a technical issue, I suspect, but I have had at least two others in the South Gippsland shire in the last couple of years where homes or property boundaries have been mistakenly gazetted or drawn up across Crown land boundaries. It was particularly the case in a property in Foster a couple of years ago, where literally again the same situation happened where the house had been built on what was actually Crown land.
Generally speaking there is a practical acceptance of these mistakes and they do not cause a big issue, particularly when the house or the property stays within one family or with one owner. The problem of course comes when you start to look to sell the properties and, naturally, prospective buyers want to see things like titles and the like and raise questions about them. It is amazing that these things can happen, although I am reminded of one of these similar issues, which was raised with me at a little place called Outtrim, just south of Korumburra, a couple of years ago. If anyone has been through that area, Outtrim in particular is a very steep and very hilly area. It used to be the site of a coalmine back at about the turn of the previous century. There remain some land title issues. I was shown the original title drawings that had been drawn up by whatever it was back in around the 1890s, 1900s – presumably it was the lands department. They had drawn up plans and titles for the town of Outtrim. They had clearly been done in Melbourne at a time before there was easy travel to South Gippsland and certainly a time before there was Google Maps, because the person in question had drawn up these house blocks and literally just gone ‘Well, there’s the town, there’s the main street – we will draw up a number of literally quarter-acre blocks side by side with a road down the middle and more quarter-acre blocks on the other side’. The problem was that when they had drawn it up, they clearly had not been to the location, because it was an absolutely precipitous hillside. There is no way in the world, even with today’s technology, that you would be building houses and roads and streets on that particular hillside. Thankfully, we have probably come a bit further than that these days. It was amusing to some degree but also still a problem for the then landowner, because they had an issue that had resulted from that planning 120-odd years ago.
I am pleased to see the Seaspray situation being sorted out. The family I have been dealing with there I am sure will be happy. Subject to the negotiations with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, I hope that will be sorted out. I have not spoken to GLaWAC about it, but I would hope that there would be no particular issue. The land in question is of course of no value to anyone else; it will only suit the house and the property involved.
There are two others in the list of changes in this legislation that also relate to Gippsland South. That is at Darlimurla and Mirboo, where the former mechanics institute sites are being effectively handed over. These I think will also come into the Gunaikurnai area, should they be sold. But these are not areas of particular interest, perhaps other than to neighbours that might be interested in buying or indeed looking at opportunities on those small sites. I highlight that both of them are in beautiful South Gippsland: Darlimurla, just out of Mirboo North, and Mirboo just out of Mirboo North, to the south. I use this opportunity to highlight that a number of people say to me from time to time, ‘Why is there a Mirboo North but no Mirboo?’ Well, there actually is. It is often misunderstood, Mirboo. There is even a Mirboo East, for those who are interested. Mirboo is a beautiful spot on the Tarwin River east branch. It is just a gorgeous part of the world, and I am sure that if this land is ultimately put up for sale, it will be snapped up, because it is a gorgeous part of the world: beautiful rolling green hills, lovely trees and good farming country.
I would just like to comment briefly on the issue of traditional owner involvement in this. As I said, I hoped that the Seaspray circumstance would be straightforward, but it is far from straightforward when it comes to selling Crown land. My understanding of it, certainly from my experience with GLaWAC, is that where native title exists there obviously needs to be a consultation with traditional owners, and the process, I believe, is that an Indigenous land use agreement needs to be arranged. What it boils down to, I understand, is that if Crown land is to be sold in an area of native title, then the traditional owners need to be not only consulted but compensated. My understanding in dealing with a couple of different pieces of land that are not related directly to this bill is that those negotiations have been bogged down.
What I am referring to in particular is the former Sale police station. The new police station was opened in Sale in 2015, thanks to the great work of my predecessor Peter Ryan and the former Liberal–Nationals government. But since 2015 the old Sale police station, which sits very close to the centre of town and right on Lake Guthridge in the middle of Sale, has sat there as an eyesore. It has not been used. It has become a mecca for vandalism, for antisocial behaviour and indeed for rough sleeping. The irony is at one stage allegedly some people who had done a series of burglaries took their ill-gotten gains back to the old Sale police station to store them. The irony of that is not lost on anyone. A couple of months ago Victoria Police did in fact properly secure the building and have fully boarded it up now so people cannot get access; the last time I checked no-one was getting access. But that is still a site that has been sitting there now for eight years, and nothing has happened with it.
It is, as I said, prime real estate. I raised this issue in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings last week, and the department indicated that negotiations with GLaWAC were ‘ongoing’. That is not really what I am hearing from my sources at the Gippsland end. They have not heard much recently and are wondering what is happening. So I encourage the government to address that situation, and I am surprised it actually has not had more publicity across the state, because it will be slowing down the process of Crown land sales in many areas. Of course the Gunaikurnai are very keen to finalise these arrangements as well. I hope that the Sale police station issue can be resolved.
I am pleased to see the Seaspray situation is resolved and that both Darlimurla and Mirboo will also proceed to a sale process. I look forward to this legislation therefore passing through this chamber and the Parliament in general.