Land sale as Ton­s­ley debt hits tax­pay­ers

The Advertiser - - NEWS - DANIEL WILLS STATE PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

LAND for hous­ing on the former Mit­subishi site is now on sale, as it emerges that tax­pay­ers stumped up $700,000 to cover the bad debt of a com­pany lured there by the State Gov­ern­ment.

The Gov­ern­ment bought the land in 2009 at a cost of $32.5 mil­lion and then-trea­surer Kevin Fo­ley said it would be­come a “clean tech” hub that would cre­ate many jobs.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing and In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Kyam Ma­her yes­ter­day helped launch the sales of about 850 homes to be built on the former in­dus­trial site. He said there were 1200 peo­ple work­ing on the site daily, up from 800 when Mit­subishi closed its fac­tory.

How­ever, doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Op­po­si­tion show tax­pay­ers were short-changed by $695,421 as Gov­ern­ment depart­ment Re­newal SA gave up on a debt owed by Tier 5.

Pre­mier Jay Weather­ill, pic­tured, an­nounced in 2014 the ICT com­pany was mov­ing to Ton­s­ley, herald­ing it as one of the first in a wave of com­pa­nies that would set up in the precinct. Min­utes from a 2016 board meet­ing show Re­newal SA deemed the Tier 5 debt “wholly un­col­lectable” as there was no bank guar­an­tee.

The com­pany went into liq­ui­da­tion in 2015. A short note in the min­utes says the board dis­cussed “due dili­gence” re­quire­ments and li­a­bil­i­ties for sim­i­lar fu­ture agree­ments.

In the same year, Re­newal SA was also forced to slash its es­ti­mates for the value of the site af­ter con­ced­ing its ex­pected rental re­turns from ten­ants had been wildly op­ti­mistic.

Op­po­si­tion Deputy Leader Vickie Chap­man said tax­pay­ers were pay­ing for “more La­bor Gov­ern­ment in­com­pe­tence” at Ton­s­ley, as the devel­op­ment failed to de­liver what was promised.

Ms Chap­man said a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion ap­pli­ca­tion for Re­newal SA doc­u­ments was stalled for two years and only re­leased af­ter in­ter­ven­tion from the Om­buds­man. “Once again, the Weather­ill Gov­ern­ment has left tax­pay­ers to foot the bill for its fail­ure to un­der­take ba­sic due dili­gence,” she said.

Mr Ma­her said “to sug­gest that Ton­s­ley has been any­thing other than a suc­cess is just ridicu­lous” and the Lib­er­als were “re­lent­lessly nega­tive” about any change in SA. He said 118 busi­nesses and start-ups were now based on the 61ha site.

Peet Devel­op­ment di­rec­tor Alan Miller said his com­pany would of­fer hous­ing pitched in the af­ford­able bracket, while of­fer­ing res­i­dents an “in­ner ur­ban char­ac­ter”.

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