Murray Bridge council proposes unsolicited bids policy

Anyone wanting to buy public land in Murray Bridge will now have to go through a three-stage process. Photo: Rural City of Murray Bridge.
Anyone wanting to buy public land in Murray Bridge will now have to go through a three-stage process. Photo: Rural City of Murray Bridge.

The Murray Bridge council hopes to avoid its own version of the Gillman land swap controversy by introducing a process for dealing with unsolicited proposals.

In 2014, the state government was engulfed in controversy after it accepted a land deal at Gillman which turned out to represent terrible value for money for taxpayers.

After that, it established a policy that set out how such matters should be dealt with.

Murray Bridge is on the verge of becoming the one of the first councils in regional South Australia to introduce such a policy.

The city has had previous experience with unsolicited offers, such as the one for Johnstone Park which led to a public outcry and permanent protection of the land in 2015-16.

Under the draft policy, any unsolicited bid from a business or individual with a value of $50,000 or more – for example, an offer to buy public land – will be subject to a three-stage process.

The chief executive officer would meet with a proponent before stage one, a basic outline of their proposal; in stage two, the proponent would be asked to flesh out the details of their idea; and in stage three, the council and proponent would negotiate a contract.

Proponents would have to prove their idea met a community need, was unique and innovative, and represented value for money; and that they had the capacity to fulfil their promises.

Councillors' approval would be required before stage two and stage three, and again once a contract is drawn up.

However, the draft policy contains several loosely worded provisions.

The council may accept or reject a proposal "on any basis"; councillors may "amend, vary or revoke and replace" the policy at any time, and may decide to enter a period of exclusive negotiation with any proponent.

The policy was suggested by Cr Jerry Wilson in January.

Several councillors expressed a hope that the council would receive more unsolicited offers in future.

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