The dirt-cheap sale of a hectare of land in Sydney to property developers has the local community in the Shire saying they were left in the dark. It was offered for sale to the Council however, which turned it down. Callum Foote looks into the Landcom mystery.
Last month, the NSW Government’s land and property developer, Landcom, sold a hectare of bushland in Sydney’s Shire for just $41k. The median house price for the area is $1.4m, with the sale going to shopping centre developer Revelop.
By comparison, in Oyster Bay, ten minutes away, there is a 1200sqm vacant plot of land for sale for $1.25m, or $10.4m per hectare – versus $3.99sqm paid by Revelop. That plot does have water views and road access though. It is important to note that the bushland is zoned environmental and cannot be developed – yet.
Landcom development director Kate Denny responded to a concerned local resident that the block of land had previously been offered to the council as recently as July 2022 but was declined.
However, Sutherland Shire Council Mayor Carmelo Pesce has told local residents that the council had the option to purchase the land from the State government in 2016 as well.
According to a local residents who spoke with the mayor, the council passed up on the land, opting to not take on any liability associated with the land.
The land, a full hectare or the size of almost two football fields, is next to the Jannali Public School and St George and Sutherland Community College – less than a kilometre from the Woronora River and importantly less than a kilometre from the Jannali train station.
The block is currently zoned as C2 Environmental conservation and as such, cannot be redeveloped in such a way “that could destroy, damage or otherwise have an adverse effect on the high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values” of the site.
Zoning to be amended?
Although not zoned for commercial property development, at least yet, the Jannali bushland property is just half an hour’s drive, or 31k, from the Sydney CBD and 20 minutes from the beach.
One resident who lives in a block of land next to the site, says the community was not informed of the sale which “came out of the blue for a lot of people.”
“We have known about this for the last five months or because we were Landcom and had requested access to our property to view the site. But we hadn’t heard anything more about it since,” she told MWM.
The block currently also has no road access, however the buyer Revelop has said that they are “eyeing off the short term and long-term potential of the property.” Revelop MD, Charbel Hazzouri, continued that in the long term, they believed “the property would improve in value and there was always the possibility of rezoning being approved,” and “in Australia, everyone has the right to have access to their property, so it would be a process, going through the council or the courts, to find a suitable method.”
Why the short sales process?
Landcom put the site up for auction, with a campaign launched by the selling agent, real estate firm Knight Frank, from 22 August 2023 to 14 September 2023.
In correspondence, Mark Litwin, Knight Frank head of investment sales for Sydney, wrote that “the property was publicly advertised through multiple media channels over a four week period and drew a fair amount of interest at the pubic auction, in rooms and online.”
The resident source, echoing the sentiments of many, said that “if the community had known about it, there would have been more demand, at $41,000 we could have crowdfunded the purchase of the property at $500 each,” continuing:
The $41k would have been a small price to pay to keep this significant bushland out of the hands of developers and cost effective compared to having to defend any (non) re-zoning decisions.
Another local landowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, told MWM that “the oddness of all of this was obviously that none of the neighbours knew. There was no advertising. There were no ‘For Sale’ signs. Nothing, and then boom, it was sold.”
The landowner also said that this approach differed vastly from the last time Landcom tried to sell the property last year.
“The neighbourhood received brochures that said it was zoned for environmental conservation, but it could potentially be rezoned” they said “Everybody immediately took an interest but it was very quickly taken off the market with an ‘Oh, nothing to see here’”.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully has yet to respond to calls for comment.
Landcom has also not yet responded to calls to comment on the sale.