Hotel  land sale linked to stadium
Big plans: The proposed stadium at Burswood. Illustration: Supplied

The WA Government told James Packer's Crown Limited it could buy 5.8ha of land for a new six-star hotel at Burswood on the condition that it allowed the Government to build its new 60,000-seat sports stadium elsewhere on the peninsula, according to letters presented to the Supreme Court this week.

The revelations, contained in the previously unreleased letters between the Government and Crown, prompted Opposition accusations Colin Barnett had misled the public and Parliament when he repeatedly claimed the issues of the stadium and hotel developments were not linked and had been treated separately by his Government.

The Premier denies the claim.

The seven letters are dated between August 2011 and July 2012 and detail the continuing negotiations involving Mr Barnett, his Department of Premier and Cabinet chief Peter Conran and Crown Perth chief executive Barry Felstead.

In one letter, dated July 13, 2012, Mr Conran sought on behalf of the Government to incorporate "all necessary approvals" for the stadium into the deal to sell the 5.8ha of former golf course land to Crown for $60 million.

These approvals became conditions in the agreement for the sale and development of the land that was eventually signed by Mr Barnett and Mr Felstead.

Under the Act that governs the operation of the casino, Crown - as trustee of the Burswood Park reserve - is required to give its approval to any change of use of land on the Burswood peninsula, including the former golf course where the Government wants to build the new stadium.

In August 2012, Mr Barnett announced the Government would sell land to Crown for a new hotel, as well as agreeing not to oppose Crown's application to the Gaming Commission for an extra 500 gaming machines and 130 gaming tables over five years.

Mr Barnett has repeatedly asserted the stadium and the hotel were separate issues and treated as such by his Government and Cabinet. "This Government has been scrupulous to keep the issues of the stadium entirely separate to issues to do with the casino and the development of a new hotel. That is entirely proper," he told State Parliament on September 27, 2012.

On the same day, he said: "The negotiations around the development of the hotel and the expansion in the number of gaming machines and tables were not related at all to the stadium issue."

But on July 13, 2012, Mr Conran wrote to Mr Felstead, inviting the Crown chief to make an offer to buy the 5.8ha of land subject to "the matters set out below".

One of those matters was that Crown "consent to land on the Burswood Peninsula being excised from the Reserve for the development of the new major stadium for Perth (located on the northern nine holes of the existing golf course) and the associate sports precinct on the balance of the golf course, and all necessary approvals thereto".

A spokeswoman for Mr Barnett said yesterday: "The Premier's previous statements are accurate and consistent. The Government always managed these negotiations and arrangements separately and they have always been treated as such by the Government and Cabinet.

"The requirement for Crown to give consent to land being excised from the Burswood Peninsular is a requirement under the legislation governing Burswood.

"While the two cases have been treated separately, we cannot ignore the legislative requirements of the Act."

Mr Felstead said he could not comment because the matter was before the courts.

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said yesterday: "It is clear that despite what the Premier told Parliament, there was clearly a link between the Government's proposed hotel development and the stadium location.

"This is not the first time that Mr Barnett has misled the Parliament and in the ordinary course of the Westminster system when a Minister lies to the Parliament they resign.

"Unfortunately, the Premier has lost all perspective of what is true and what he tells Parliament so I suspect he has convinced himself whatever he says to the Parliament is the truth, regardless of the facts."

The West Australian

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