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Government's Gillman story unravels

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The State Government has changed its tune on the controversial Gillman land sale after investigations by the media revealed that its previous statements were incorrect.

The Government has consistently claimed that no other serious proposal for developing the Gillman site was received before it agreed to sell the site to developer ACP without a tender.

However, InDaily revealed on Monday that long-established Adelaide engineering firm Bardavcol had put a detailed proposal for the Gillman Estate to Renewal SA well before the ACP decision was made.

Today, The Australian obtained and reported on the detailed bid documents, which back InDaily’s report.

After flatly denying on Monday that a proposal had been received from Bardavcol for the land in question, today Renewal SA and the Government revealed that there had indeed been negotiations between the company and the government.

“Bardavcol offered to provide a service at considerable cost to the Government to fill land at Gillman as one step in preparing the land for development,” a spokesperson for Renewal SA told InDaily this morning.

“It was in no way a detailed proposal and specifically excluded the provision of infrastructure and services necessary for industry to establish operations in the area.

“In comparison, ACP plans to purchase and develop the land into an industrial hub with serviced industrial allotments to support South Australia’s fast expanding oil and gas industry as well as general industrial activity –  thereby removing the risk and cost to South Australian taxpayers in funding such development directly.”

Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis told InDaily the government stood by its comments, saying: “A proposal seeking for the Government to pay a company to fill land at Gillman, as one step in preparing the land for development, is not a detailed, economic proposal. 

“We have received no other detailed, economic proposals like ACPs and I stand by my comments.”

On Monday a spokesperson for Renewal SA claimed Bardavcol had never proposed to develop the land – a statement which was also backed by a spokesperson for Premier Jay Weatherill.

This claim is directly contradicted by Bardavcol’s formal proposal which is explicitly about developing the land to the point that it’s ready for industrial use.

“At no stage has Bardavcol proposed to purchase the Gillman land or to develop the land to a point that it could be used for industry,” Renewal SA told InDaily on Monday. “On this basis, Renewal SA did not inform Cabinet or the Premier [of the bid].”

Bardavcol is understood to believe its proposal – to remediate the land for government to ready it for development – could have resulted in the land being sold for a profit of between $240 and $300 million.

Instead, the Government eventually chose to sell the land to ACP for $100 million.

ACP negotiated the sale of the land directly with the Premier rather than participate in Renewal SA’s Gillman masterplan process – as Bardavcol is understood to have done.

Responding to criticism of the Gillman sale yesterday,  Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis told an industry forum that he would never open a tender for a project when an unsolicited bid had already been made.

That would be tantamount to releasing the bidder’s intellectual property, he told an Urban Development Institute lunch at Adelaide Oval yesterday.

“I’ll tell you what I won’t do. I won’t do what our opponents will do when you come to me with an unsolicited bid and your own plan. I won’t release your intellectual property,” he said.

“I won’t give you the ability to be taken down by your competitors. If you come to me with an unsolicited bid, we are open for business. There is nothing wrong with unsolicited bids to government.”

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