Defence Housing Australia managing director Barry Jackson in Senate Estimates.
Defence Housing Australia managing director Barry Jackson in Senate Estimates. Contributed

REVEALED: New plans for defence housing at Toowoomba

DEFENCE Housing Australia has revealed new plans for its Mount Lofty site, weeks after announcing through Federal Member John McVeigh it "would not proceed" with its controversial 342-lot development. 

Fronting Senate Estimates on Wednesday night, DHA managing director Barry Jackson under questioning from Labor Senator Tim Ayres confirmed the project was not being withdrawn, but was to be amended. 

"What we're actually doing is seeking to modify the current development application in conjunction with the Toowoomba Regional Council on a far less substantive development," Mr Jackson said. 

When queried as to how large the new development would be, Mr Jackson said that was currently "in discussions with Toowoomba Regional Council". 

"My development people met with them last week," Mr Jackson said.

"They are keen to see a small amount of development on the site and there is a large part of the site of about 14 or 15 hectares which is cleared and has no vegetation on it.

"So we are working with them for a significantly reduced development application." 

Mr Jackson said the decision to amend the original plans was "on the basis of our needs and how we could meet the provision requirements for defence". 

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He said that "with regards to previous operating models within DHA, there has been a fairly large reliance upon being a land developer". 

"Our prime function is to provide accommodation for Australian Defence Force members and their families and in looking at that current market in Toowoomba and the like, we believe we can meet that requirement without such a large development," he said. 

When Senator Ayres asked what had led to Mr Jackson's reassessment of the project, he said DHA received annual forecasts from Defence with regard to their requirements.

"The requirement hasn't significantly changed," he said.

"As I said, the ability to create new stock in Toowoomba is something we try to do and turn over. It's probably fair to say that the original intention was not to have such a large development on that site.

"And since I became managing director I have been reviewing some of these large developments that we have been proposing and I determined that we did not need to do such a large development and we could meet our provision requirements elsewhere. I then put a proposal to the board of DHA who agreed with that." 

At this point, Senator Ayres interjected: "So the decision wasn't because of the community backlash to the size of the project?" 

Mr Jackson said DHA was "certainly very aware of it and we take it very seriously and we had a high degree of consultation with the community". 

"But equally we had complied fully with the Toowoomba Regional Council's requirements. And we always intended and still intend to transfer a large parcel of the site to the Toowoomba Regional Council and that has always been our intention and we will do that. It will just be slightly bigger piece now." 

The decision to amend the application was made on February 6, Mr Jackson said.

Mr Jackson said he would have to take questions about how much the development process had cost and how much had been spent on consultants lobbying for the project on notice. 

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