Boat-hire lessee Pat Seears says $1 million a 'pittance' for West Basin land | ACT | Office Space Canberra \
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Boat-hire lessee Pat Seears says $1 million a ‘pittance’ for West Basin land

Paddleboat leaseholder Pat Seears says $1 million is a “pittance” for his prime property on the lake front at West Basin, given the land would make “millions and millions” for Canberra and its people.

Mr Seears said he hoped Auditor-General Maxine Cooper, who delivered a scathing account of the purchase of Mr Seears’ business and others, and this newspaper were around to see that day.

Dr Cooper reported last year that there was no documentation explaining the rationale for paying Mr Seears $1 million for the lease on his paddleboat business, and it was “inappropriate” for the deal to be based on a valuation from Colliers described by her expert valuer as lacking evidence and not justified.

Mr Seears, appearing on Friday before a parliamentary inquiry into the land deals at West Basin, also delivered a strong defence of land agency head David Dawes, with whom he went to school in Cooma and whom he described as a friend.

“I’m a bit disgusted and amazed at the situation overall, to tell you the truth,” Mr Seears said. “I mean, the way I look at this whole thing is that David Dawes for under $3 million wrapped up and made way for the development of the best parcel of this land in this territory.

“… I think it might be more or less a political stunt to try and hang the poor bloke. But I can tell you, I’m just sticking up for him, there’s not one dishonest bone in that man’s body. I’ve known him for longer than all of you.”

Mr Seears shed little light on why he was paid $1 million.

He told the inquiry he had no knowledge of government valuations earlier in 2015 putting his business at $50,000 and $100,000, although he had got three of his own valuations suggesting it was worth about $320,000. The auditor reported that Mr Seears had asked for $3.31 million in December 2014, revised to $2.7 million in January 2015. In November 2015, Colliers revalued the business for the government at $438,000, plus a premium of $500,000 as compensation. This valuation was strongly criticised by the auditor.

Mr Seears subleased the business to his brother Jim Seears, who ran the paddleboats and received $575,000 from the government for his business. Jim Seears told the same inquiry a week ago that his dealings with the land agency had driven him almost to suicide.

But Pat Seears said for him, “the whole thing was pretty swift”.

Liberal Leader Alistair Coe questioned him on why the land agency would have sought a third valuation from Colliers after the valuations of $50,000 and $100,000 if it was not negotiating with him.

“Nobody negotiated with me,” Mr Seears responded.

“I wasn’t involved in any of this, I was only made the one offer. I was never offered any amount up until that day they offered me the money they paid me.”

Mr Coe compared the apparent lack of negotiations with Mr Seears to the extensive negotiations with the nearby Mr Spokes bike hire business, saying “The Mr Spokes people … had a tremendous barney, it seems, going for months if not years trying to get near that $1 million, so I’m just wondering how it is that on one hand [the land agency is] having it out with Mr Spokes and seemingly struggling to acquire it but not even engaging in conversation with you.”

To which Mr Seears said his lawyer, Ben Aulich, “might have been involved” in talks. “But there was not much, the whole thing was pretty swift.”

“I had no negotiations with anyone whatsoever on the acquisition. I actually probably spoke to or saw David Dawes once and once only in the 18 months leading up to that. I had no conversation with him or anyone. “

He later added that Mr Dawes had called him and “told me he had reached arrangement with my brother and they were looking at my situation”.

There had been earlier discussions with his consultant, who had been negotiating with the government for some time over his plans to develop the boat hire site with function space.

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