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Ron Manners’ ideas
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Ron wrote this open letter to the Premier in 2015. As yet, he’s had no response.

Dear Premier Barnett,

Travelling through Europe, particularly Greece, with a group of economists last month, I had a strange feeling. It came to me while we spoke on the importance of respecting property rights as a key component in energizing any country’s economy.
Among the varying examples of property rights being trashed in those countries, none were worse examples than one in Western Australia that affects me as a small partner in a residential land development syndicate (Primewest Syndicate) at Wattleup Rd, just south of Perth.

We purchased the syndicate land, zoned urban–deferred, in February 2006. Both at the time of purchase and rezoning to urban in 2008, it was not affected in any way by any industrial buffer or the like. Nothing complicated about that and easily understood. In fact the WAPC had some five years before purchased an adjoining poultry operation, relocated it to a rural area and then proceeded to rezone the land for residential use.

Then, in 2009, a decision was made without reference to the local council or affected land owners. It was a decision to extend the Alcoa exclusion zone by an additional 500m to include our land holding. That decision overturned all strategic and statutory planning which had been undertaken over more than a decade to realise zonings under the Metropolitan Region Scheme and City of Cockburn Town Planning Scheme No. 3 which allow for residential development. Such extraordinary action undermines confidence in the planning system and increases the cost of bringing residential land to market further fuelling Perth’s housing affordability predicament.

So, here we are, more than nine years since our purchase and seven years since the land was rezoned to urban. Despite our best efforts to subdivide this land and supply some residential blocks in this prime location, all we have to show for it is a mountain of paper and bureaucratic obfuscation that would provide a ready made script for any Australian version of Yes Minister!

To continue on this lumbering process of applications into the distant future appears pointless, hence my direct approach to you as the matter rests in the Premier’s department and not in the Western Australian Planning Commission where it probably should reside.

An economics student could write their thesis on why the cost of building blocks in Western Australia are three times the price they should be. To put this in perspective, the Perth median home price in 1985 was the equivalent of 3.16 times average annual earnings. In 2014, Perth’s median home price represents 9.35 times average annual earnings.

This is in a state where, through the efficiency of our home builders, the price of houses has been kept low. Meanwhile, the price of housing lots has gone through the roof, one might say. Yes, there was a request that we do further dust sample monitoring, over a 12 month period. Yes, this was done by experts, based on a methodology approved by and in consultation with your Department of Health and Department of Environment and Conservation. The monitoring was completed at great expense, and the results confirmed that no problems existed.

However, the State Administrative Tribunal claims the precautionary principle should triumph over property rights. I’ve studied the precautionary principle and understand clearly that on that basis no one should ever get married because such marriage may end in divorce and that no one should ever start a business because at sometime in the future it may fail.

Mr Premier, our great state was not built on the precautionary principle and we should be thankful for that.

Media Coverage

An ABC transcript of a story on the buffer plans, from 15 October, 2014, includes your comment:

“If people have bought land in a buffer zone, which hasn’t been legislated previously but it’s been there and there’s been a lot of discussion about the buffer zone and how wide it should be, then those developers take on a risk.”

Please let me, respectfully, correct this statement. When our syndicate purchased this land in 2006 there was no buffer zone, nor talk of one on this syndicate land. In respect to our land syndicate, your comments were incorrect (simply wrong) which leads me to suggest that either your advisors don’t understand property rights, or that they were misleading you in preparing that statement.

My question now is: does your government believe in property rights? Do they agree that it is a key ingredient in what we call western civilization which has given us levels of prosperity in our state that is the envy of many parts of the world?

If you believe in property rights then there can be no arbitrary ‘taking’ as is your current action of legislating a 1.5 km exclusion zone. If your action is being taken to accommodate some form of ‘crony-capitalism’ deal being done between the state government and Alcoa (shades of WA Inc.) then this must be done by mutual negotiation, rather than by the stroke of a bureaucratic pen.

Mr Premier, it seems that I have only two alternatives:

  1. Remain silent while my existing (at time of purchase) Property Rights are legislated away by your government (not a rational option).
  2. Protest vigorously about what I see as a clear breach of government trust that, if it remains unchallenged, will continue to create further uncertainty for all property owners in Western Australia.

I bring this matter to your attention in the hope that you might review the matter and I make myself available, at any time convenient to yourself, to discuss this matter with you further.

Yours respectfully,

Ron Manners,



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