SENATORS examining DHA-proposed civilian homes in the SAS’s Seaward Village heard the Defence Department told Nedlands Council in 2013 it is “prudent” only soldiers live in the village so adjacent Campbell Barracks is not compromised in Swanbourne.
“Has this changed in the last two years? Anybody?” Senator Stephen Conroy asked DHA leaders, defence chiefs and Defence Minister Marise Payne at the Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra last Wednesday.
Sen, Payne and DHA acting-managing director Jon Bocklehurst said they had not seen the letter.
Mr Brocklehurst said the redevelopment’s security design was agreed to by former assistant defence minister Stuart Robert after the letter was sent.
Recently, an army security review found no reasons to stop the redevelopment, netting DHA an initially mooted $50 million-$80 million profit, if the design rules were followed, including a barrier between military and civilian village precincts.
Cottesloe MLA Colin Barnett opposes redevelopment, and asked Sen. Payne to instead continue refurbishing the village’s homes in a letter two weeks ago.
Sen. Payne, who has responsibility for DHA while a new Cabinet post is still being decided, said to the “best of her recollection” she had not seen the letter, but she would respond to senators and Mr Barnett later.
Senator Dean Smith asked if DHA had surveyed soldiers and their families about the village’s future, since series of contested DHA-run focus groups with some general public and information sessions for neighbouring Swanbourne ratepayers.
DHA regional manager of development James Wallace said a briefing session with about 30 villagers was on September 14, after 153 village homes were surveyed after July 1.
Mr Wallace said about 61 villagers responded to the survey, of which 20 per cent opposed redevelopment.
Since mid-2014 about 17 per cent of the bungalows in the village have been vacant.
“So we presume that DHA wasn’t including those in their rubbery figures,” Australian SAS Association chair Terry Nolan said.
Mr Nolan said the hearing showed no one in Canberra was taking responsibility for the redevelopment, which would uproot long-serving military families and create risks in an increasingly dangerous security environment shown by the Parramatta shooting.