Dec­la­ra­tion of vic­tory

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By JON BAS­SETT

A COMMUNITY coali­tion that fought against re­de­vel­op­ment of the SAS’s Seaward Vil­lage cel­e­brated when Curtin MHR Julie Bishop an­nounced the en­clave would in­stead be re­fur­bished in Swan­bourne last week.

“I want to as­sure lo­cal peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar the SAS and their fam­i­lies, that we want to main­tain Seaward Vil­lage in Swan­bourne, we want to main­tain Camp­bell Bar­racks here in Swan­bourne, so that means keep­ing Seaward Vil­lage next to the SAS so those con­nec­tions can con­tinue,” Ms Bishop said.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment now plans a rolling pro­gram of re­fur­bish­ments with min­i­mal dis­rup­tion to SAS fam­i­lies af­ter sur­vey­ing what each of the vil­lage’s 154 houses re­quires, al­though 12 are in such poor con­di­tion they will be de­mol­ished.

Swan­bourne res­i­dents in ad­ja­cent Sayer Street would have faced build­ing trucks go­ing past their homes for seven years dur­ing the now scrapped re­de­vel­op­ment, which was cam­paigned against by the Aus­tralia SAS As­so­ci­a­tion for 22 months.

“This re­fur­bish­ment is a fan­tas­tic re­sult for the community and the SAS, but we will con­tinue to watch what is hap­pen­ing,” Sayer Street res­i­dent Mer­rilee Gar­nett said.

Joanna Allen, grand­daugh­ter of John Allen, who cre­ated Allen Park neigh­bour­ing the vil­lage, said the re­fur­bish­ment was the start of se­cur­ing the park’s future.

How­ever, oth­ers were cau­tious about the re­fur­bish­ment be­cause De­fence Hous­ing Aus­tralia (DHA) left vil­lage homes va­cant and un­main­tained be­fore the re­de­vel­op­ment pro­posal.

“I’ll be­lieve it when I see it be­cause I can­not trust DHA,” SAS wife Mrs A said.

Swan­bourne Coastal Al­liance con­venor Jean-Paul Orsini said while the vil­lage ap­peared safe for “the next few years”, the community had to be vig­i­lant about any future pro­pos­als.

THE re­view of Seaward Vil­lage’s now scrapped re­de­vel­op­ment is crit­i­cal of De­fence Hous­ing Aus­tralia for un­der­es­ti­mat­ing re­sis­tance to the pro­posal dur­ing 22 months of community op­po­si­tion.

“Fun­da­men­tally, the ‘ heart and minds’ cam­paign has been lost by DHA,” re­tired Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Mark Evans said, af­ter re­fur­bish­ing the vil­lage in­stead was an­nounced last week.

DHA is a Fed­eral Govern­ment Busi­ness En­ter­prise not au­dited by Can­berra’s Works Com­mit­tee and it pro­posed us­ing half the 22ha vil­lage for 140 civil­ian lots to be sold for about $100 mil­lion.

Sol­diers’ fam­i­lies would have had a high-den­sity precinct next to the strate­gi­cally sen­si­tive Camp­bell Bar­racks, which the Govern­ment will spend at least $225 mil­lion up­grad­ing.

DHA’s pro­posal sparked se­cu­rity con­cerns about hav­ing civil­ians 300m from the bar­racks, Swan­bourne res­i­dents op­posed con­struc­tion traf­fic and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists were against ad­ja­cent Allen Park be­ing dam­aged.

Community sup­port ral­lied be­hind SAS sol­diers and their wives fac­ing more un­cer­tainty af­ter years of fall­ing vil­lage main­te­nance.

“As a re­sult of the DHA’s wish to ap­ply its busi­ness model, there ap­pears to have been re­luc­tance to in­vest in im­prov­ing the vil­lage to any great ex­tent, in­di­cated by the ces­sa­tion of a re­fur­bish­ment pro­gram that was un­der­way in 2012,” Lt-Gen Evans said.

Lt-Gen Evans said the vil­lage’s 2001 pro­tec­tive covenant cre­ated “ten­sion” be­tween DHA pro­vid­ing “ad­e­quate and suit­able” sol­diers’ hous­ing and its profit-mak­ing GBE func­tion.

He said the dis­crep­ancy should be re­solved and rec­om­mended the covenant stay in the short to medium term.

“The chal­lenge is to en­sure that, if re­fur­bish­ment is selected, the same is­sues do not arise in an­other 10 to 15 years,” he said.

The re­port rec­om­mended vil­lage own­er­ship is moved from DHA to the Depart­ment of De­fence.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment may re­view the Pub­lic Works Act, which does not al­low DHA’s com­mer­cial projects be­ing ex­am­ined by Can­berra MPs, but the Act in­cludes the bar­racks’ up­grade.

SAS mem­bers, their wives and the Swan­bourne community could be bet­ter served if Seaward Vil­lage was given back to the Depart­ment of De­fence. The sol­diers’ con­stant state of readi­ness and in­creas­ing fre­quency of de­ploy­ment means where they live, its main­te­nance and se­cu­rity are vi­tal to their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, their fam­i­lies’ hap­pi­ness and the na­tion’s de­fence. Hand­ing the land back would also so­lid­ify the re­la­tion­ship neigh­bour­ing res­i­dents have with De­fence. How­ever, the whole of Aus­tralia would be bet­ter served if De­fence Hous­ing Aus­tralia was re­turned to the over­sight of Can­berra’s Works Com­mit­tee. That would pro­vide some se­cu­rity for tax­pay­ers about Aus­tralia’s largest de­vel­oper. It may also tem­per the en­thu­si­asm of those within gov­ern­ments who ad­vo­cate that its busi­ness en­ter­prise cre­ates profit. As for Seaward, the community will have to keep its eye on DHA and the Govern­ment so that the vil­lage’s homes are kept in a con­di­tion be­fit­ting men whose work of­ten takes them past the front­line. Jon Bas­sett - re­porter

Cel­e­brat­ing coali­tion mem­bers in­cluded Joanna Allen, Re­becca and Zemi­rah John, Aus­tralia SAS chair­man Terry Nolan, Jean-Paul Orsini and So­phie Roe.

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