I rise today to speak about a number of concerns that have been raised with me about the future of Seaward Village, at Swanbourne in Western Australia. Seaward Village is owned by Defence Housing Australia and consists of 153 homes. In June this year I visited Seaward Village, and the shadow minister for defence, Stephen Conroy, visited there in May. We were shown around the village and spoke with SAS families who lived there.
Earlier this year DHA announced plans to replace all of the homes in the estate, on the grounds that it is necessary to meet new standards. DHA also plans to sell off part of the land at the village for private non-Defence housing. Due to the sensitive nature of their work, SAS members and their families feel they are restricted from speaking out publicly against the proposed development. Instead, their concerns have been voiced by SAS Association Vice Chairman and former SAS Major, Anthony Lay, and by the Chairman of the SAS Association and former commanding officer of the regiment, Brigadier (Retd) Terry Nolan. One of their main concerns is the development of private non-military housing close to their homes and the threat that this could pose to their security. As you know, the identities of SAS members and families are often protected, and any influx of nonDefence residents into the area could pose a serious security risk.
Aside from personal safety, residents are also concerned about the risks, safety and security of Campbell Barracks. Defence has undertaken a full security review of the proposal, which was supposed to have been completed by the end of June. However, the reviews findings have not yet been made available to residents or to the opposition.
Aside from security concerns SAS families are also concerned about a range of other elements of the redevelopment. Many of the residents would prefer that their homes were refurbished instead of being knocked down and rebuilt, particularly as they understand that to meet new standards and regulations the homes only need to have an additional ensuite and a new carport. All they need is an additional ensuite and a new car port in order to meet the new standards and regulations. Residents would prefer to stay in their homes and keep the current size of their plots, which is set to be reduced under the proposal. The residents are also unsure about the time frame for the proposal. How far along is the plan? Is it in the concept phase, is it in the planning phase or is it a done deal? DHA has said in a notice to residents that it is moving to submit the plans to the WA Planning Commission for approval next month. However, residents feel that there has not been adequate consultation. In June last year DHA said it would conduct a proper, full survey to gauge the residents' response to the proposal, yet apparently it has not done this.
Residents are also unhappy about the disruption that will be caused to families during the redevelopment. According to information provided by DHA, some residents who choose to stay within the village during construction will need to move—at least twice—during the redevelopment program.
Finally, there is some confusion about how this redevelopment proposal even came about. It says the community was under the impression there was a covenant, from 1991, that prevented the sale of land into the private sector. When this question was raised during Senate estimates, DHA responded with no further explanation. They said:
DHA and Defence have agreed to remove the covenant to enable the redevelopment. Upon completion, a new covenant will be placed on the new Defence houses.
As you can see, there are a number of valid concerns associated with this redevelopment. These concerns have been backed up by local community group Friends of Allen Park Bushland Group.
Significantly more work needs to be done in responding to these concerns before the redevelopment goes ahead, particularly for those residents living in the barracks, on the village. They have significant concerns about having to move. They want to know what the future is, what the plans are for the redevelopment. They want to know why their houses need to be refurbished or rebuilt given the fact that the new standards and regulations really only require an ensuite and a carport.
I call on the government and Defence Housing Australia to improve communication and consultation on the redevelopment of Seaward Village and to address the very legitimate concerns of the residents of Seaward Village, many of whom have been living for a protracted length of time.