Friday, June 02, 2006

Passing the hat around for broke NSW

With the Snowy privatisation now off, the state of NSW has a ~$1.5bn hole in its coffers. So let me play Financial Adviser to the Distressed for a moment.

Firstly, Morris – you need to economise. Rationalising your mutiple public transport modal empires (and ticketing systems) would be a big help. It may even encourage interstate visitors to Sydney, many of whom currently find the cost of, say, a public transport return day-trip from Manly to Bondi Beach ($30 or so, across three modes) ample reason to stay on the sensible side of the Murray/Tweed.

But this sort of tweaking is still not going to give you the monetary equivalent of three-thousand, run-down Bexley fibros (aka $1.5bn), I know. So here’s the real money-spinner, Morrie: flog the Royal Sydney golf course off, for housing. While this is a (very) private establishment, I assume that the members don’t hold the land as freehold; i.e. that there is some sort of Crown title to it.

While the 5,000 or so RSGC members would loudly bleat about this, I can’t see any of them living in a remotely marginal seat. In addition they could either join the adjacent Woollahra Golf Club (albeit 9 holes only, compared to RSGC’s 27), or pay a quite reasonable price (possibly less than the public transport fare Joe Public pays just to get there) of $15/$20 per weekday/weekend session to play as a general public member.

Royal Sydney occupies about 500,000 square metres of prime Rose Bay real estate. At a conservative $1,000 per square metre (so allowing for roads, etc), it is worth half a billion dollars.

That’s a third of NSW’s immediate fiscal shortfall solved with one, simple transaction. And unlike with privatisations of taxpayer assets, where everyone’s a loser, bar the big end of town – here, everyone’s a winner, bar the big end of town. So get to it, Morrie.

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