Seaward review under fire

“I’ve come to the view the review is more a Defence Department internal review of the project, rather than a wider public review,” Australian SAS chairman Terry Nolan, a former SAS commander, said.

Mr Nolan’s and others’ concerns peaked when review chief retired Lieutenant-General Mark Evans met with State Government planners, Swanbourne residents, SAS wives and environmentalists two weeks ago.

Mr Nolan said it was felt the review was being conducted with “unnecessary haste” and it may not analyse all the information from the public, whose opposition was the only reason the project was under scrutiny.

During his five-day visit to WA until January 15, Lt-Gen Evans said he may have reached a decision the following weekend and would have briefed Assistant Minister for Defence Darren Chester last week, almost six weeks before his report’s February 29 deadline.

“Some submissions were sent at the end of his visit to prevent DHA from being able to refute their contents in its submission,” Mr Nolan said.

Lt-Gen Evans has asked DHA to again calculate the cost of demolishing half the 22ha village for 165 private lots, which would be expected to result in anything from a $25 million loss to a $50 million profit for the Government.

However, Swanbourne Coastal Alliance convenor Jean-Paul Orsini said residents should write to state and federal MPs asking for an independent costing of the redevelopment and the alternative to just refurbish the village’s 153 homes.

“And any hiding behind DHA, by saying the information wanted by the community is ‘commercial in confidence’, will be considered by the residents to be an indication of just how unprepared the Government was to be transparent with voters,” Mr Orsini said.

When meeting Swanbourne residents, Lt-Gen Evans said they should “rest assured” that new costs for the proposal would be done “properly”, and there would not be “any great input” into the review after submissions closed on January 15.

Mr Chester was overseas and unavailable for comment.