Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Gladstone Qld inherits serial fantacist


Still trying to sell 'the dream", former truck driver Des Euan has moved on from Port Of Yamba NSW to Gladstone in Queensland....

The Observer, 16 March 2018:

North Coast Voices readers may recall that he was touting both the Yamba 'mega port' and the Gladstone mega logistics hub to the Dept. of Infrastructure and Development in August last year.

Following in his previous footsteps Euan has created a shell company, set up a website and is apparently well into his patter.

Both Resources and Northern Australia Minister and Liberal Senator for Queensland Matt Canavan and local state Labor MP for Gladstone Glen Butcher reportedly support Euan's scheme.

Perhaps the people Gladstone should ponder on the reasons why that ancient Roman maxim caveat emptor has lasted down the ages.

* Hat tip to Clarrie Rivers for supplying link the newspaper article.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

UNITED LAND COUNCILS IN THE NEWS AGAIN: Nicholas Petroulias appears before NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and represents himself at hearings


*This post will be updated whenever additional information becomes available*

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began a public inquiry on 27 March 2018. 

ICAC’s media release of 7 March 2018 stated in part:

“….as part of an investigation it is conducting into allegations concerning the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) (Operation Skyline).

The Commission is investigating whether any public official, being a Awabakal LALC Board director, acted dishonestly and/or in breach of their duty as a Board member in relation to a scheme involving proposals from 2014 to 2016 for the sale and development of properties (“the Sale and Development Scheme”) owned by the land council.

The Commission is also investigating whether any Awabakal LALC Board director acted dishonestly and/or in breach of their duty as a Board member in purporting to retain, or retaining, Knightsbridge North Lawyers or anyone else to act for the land council in respect of the Sale and Development Scheme.

Further, the ICAC is investigating whether any Awabakal LALC Board director: acted dishonestly and/or in breach of their duty as a Board member by participating in, or aiding or assisting any person in relation to, the Sale and Development Scheme including dealings with Sunshine Property Investment Group Pty Ltd, Sunshine Warners Pty Ltd, Solstice Property Corporation Pty Ltd and Advantage Property Experts Syndications Pty Ltd and/or Advantage Property Syndications Ltd; and whether they received any financial or other benefits as a reward or payment for their involvement in, or for their assistance or services rendered in relation to, the Sale and Development Scheme or any connected matter.

The Commission is also examining whether any person or persons encouraged or induced any Awabakal LALC Board director to dishonestly or partially exercise any of their official functions in respect of the Sale and Development Scheme and any other land council property, or otherwise engaged in conduct connected with corrupt conduct within the meaning of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.

The public inquiry will start at 10:00 am and will be held in the Commission's hearing room on Level 7, 255 Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Chief Commissioner the Hon Peter Hall QC will preside at the public inquiry, and Counsel Assisting the Commission will be Dr Nicholas Chen SC and Ms Juliet Curtin.

The inquiry is set down for approximately three weeks. A witness list for at least the first week of the proceedings will be published on the ICAC website prior to the commencement of the public inquiry.”

Transcripts of Operation Skyline public hearings can be found here.

Note: PURSUANT TO SECTION 112 OF THE ICAC ACT, A SUPPRESSION ORDER IS MADE PROTECTING AGAINST ANY DISSEMINATION OF ANY PRIVATE EMAIL ADDRESSES, PRIVATE ADDRESSES OR PHONE NUMBERS CONTAINED IN EACH OF THE EXHIBITS TO BE UPLOADED ONTO AND PUBLISHED ON THE COMMISSION’S WEBSITE. I MAKE THAT ORDER SUBJECT TO ANY FURTHER ORDER OF THE COMMISSION.

WEEK 1 WITNESS LIST

Tuesday 27 March 
Terrence Henry Lawler - government appointed Administrator of the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Wednesday 28 March 
Terrence Henry Lawler government appointed Administrator of the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Omar Bin Abdullah building design consultant & sole director/shareholder Alamco Pty Ltd (currently under external administration) 
Steven Mark Slee - former CEO Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, former director 
Awabakal Cooperative and Yarnteen College
Cyril Philemon Gabey - one of three directors at The Indigenous Business Union Pty Ltd (IBU) (deregistered 15/01/2017)

Thursday 29 March
John Terry Hancock - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council Eleanor Swan - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council
Deborah June Swan - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, sister to Elanor
Bernard Michael "Mick' Walsh - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council 

WEEK 2 WITNESS LIST

Tuesday 3 April
Eleanor W Swan - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council
Deborah June Swan former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council 
Larry Warren Slee - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, father of Steven Mark Slee

Wednesday 4 April
Matthew Fisk - employee of Tony Zong first at Sunshine Property Investment Group and later at Luxeland Group
Tony Zong (Shuxin Zong) - sole director and shareholder of Sunshine Property Investment Group Pty Limited, a commercial fitout & building company
Diane "Dan Dan" Ren - property developer, co-director and co-shareholder of Luxeland Group Pty Ltd with Tony Zong *not questioned on the day*

Thursday 5 April
Tony Zong (Shuxin Zong) - sole director and shareholder of Sunshine Property Investment Group Pty Limited, a commercial fitout & building company
Nicole Steadman - former interim chair of Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council *not questioned on the day*

Friday 6 April
Tony Zong (Shuxin Zong) - sole director and shareholder of Sunshine Property Investment Group Pty Limited, a commercial fitout & building company
Larry Warren Slee - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, father of Steven Mark Slee
Ronald Wayne Jordan - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, employed by family business
Candy Towers - member Awabakal community, former employee Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council *not questioned on the day*

WEEK 3 WITNESS LIST

Monday 9 April
Larry Warren Slee - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, father of Steven Mark Slee
Leonard James Quinlan - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council
Dr. Raymond Kelly - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council

Tuesday 10 April
Dr. Raymond Kelly - former board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council
Ronald Wayne Jordanformer board member Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, employed by family business
Clayton Hickey - accountant with PKF Lawler *not questioned on the day*
Ian Sheriff - solicitor *not questioned on the day*

Wednesday 11 April
Keith Kang Rhee - co-director and one of two shareholders in of Keeju Pty Ltd a family sushi business
Sammy Sayed aka Sam Say - said to be in real estate/properties

Thursday 12 April
Sammy Sayed aka Sam Say - said to be in real estate/properties
Ian Sheriff - solicitor
Diane "Dan Dan" Ren - property developer, co-director and co-shareholder of Luxeland Group Pty Ltd with Tony Zong

Friday 13 April
Nicole Steadman - former interim chair of Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council 
Candy Towers - member Awabakal community, former employee Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council


The Sydney Morning Herald report on Day One of the hearings, 27 March 2018:

Disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias has resurfaced at the centre of a corruption probe into a series of deals to sell off up to $30 million worth of Aboriginal land in the NSW Hunter region.

Mr Petroulias was one of the country's most senior public servants before his high-profile jailing in 2008 for corrupt conduct and unauthorised publication of Commonwealth documents.

The first day of public inquiry by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) has heard that Mr Petroulias played a "central role" in three deals - and one attempted deal - to sell off land belonging to the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

In one of the more extraordinary allegations, Mr Petroulias was accused of signing a 2014 deal on behalf of a company director who was already dead at the time he was appointed.

The deals took place between 2014 and 2016, with the most lucrative worth $30 million, the inquiry heard.

In his opening address, counsel assisting Nicholas Chen SC alleged that Mr Petroulias used a "two dollar company" he controlled - known as Gows Heat - to obtain purchase rights over several parcels of Awabakal land.

"Mr Petroulias at that time had recently been made a bankrupt," Mr Chen told the inquiry. "Neither Gows Heat nor Mr Petroulias paid any money to the land council to secure this 'right'."

It was alleged Mr Petroulias on-sold the purchase rights to a new buyer and then attempted to on-sell the rights again to another buyer, while both remained unaware of the other's existence.

"Gows Heat and Mr Petroulias secured a significant windfall: he sold this "right", around six months later, and received around $1.1 million as a result," Mr Chen said.

Whether Awabakal's board was aware of these deals - and how the deals could go ahead without disclosure to the board - will be investigated by the inquiry.

The inquiry will also examine the actions of two former Awabakal board members involved in the transactions - Richard Green and Debbie Dates - and a lawyer who executed the deals on the land council's behalf.

That solicitor, Despina Bakis, was the sole director of Sydney firm Knightsbridge North Lawyers. Mr Chen noted that she had been in what could be described as an "on-again, off-again" relationship with Mr Petroulias for about 20 years.

Mr Chen noted that neither Ms Bakis or Mr Petroulias were Indigenous and Ms Bakis had "no relevant experience" in undertaking the kind of work she was tasked to do by the land council.

The inquiry heard Mr Petroulias has adopted a string of aliases, including Nick or Nicholas Piers; Nick or Nicholas Pearson and Nick or Nicholas Petersen.

A number of corporate entities with links to Mr Petroulias had been created using the identities of people that knew nothing of their involvement, Mr Chen alleged.

The Newcastle Herald reporting on Day One, 28 March 2018:

The land council's administrator, Terry Lawler, took to the witness box on Tuesday afternoon, testifying that he found no copies of any agreements to sell Awabakal land when he was installed by the state government in 2016. 

Mr Petroulias, representing himself, grilled Mr Lawler over what he told Awabakal members before they voted on one of the land deals.

"Did you mention that I was a criminal to the membership of the meeting?," he asked. 

Mr Lawler responded that a solicitor acting for him may have, but added “fact’s facts”. 

When he put the issue to a vote, there was a "sea of hands" against the proposal, Mr Lawler said. 

“One of the members actually said: ‘are you a comedian?’,” he recalled. 

Mr Lawler told the inquiry that when he was first made aware of the deal, involving a company called Advantage Property Experts Syndications, he “didn’t have any information” about whether it was a good or bad deal.

However he was stunned at proposals relating to the post office. 

“The thing that did really strike me, and I remember thinking ‘this bloke’s delusional’, is that he said to me ‘part and parcel of this is we're going to do up the post office and hand it back to the NSW state government so as they’ll provide us with a strategic state development approval for the development of Hillsborough Road,” Mr Lawler told the inquiry.  

“I found that an interesting statement, because that's just not the way things work.” 
Mr Lawler also noticed a number of typos within the agreement. 

“To be frank some of the agreements I found extremely difficult to read, understand, there were differing parties … one party on the cover sheet another party in the agreement, there were references to agreements even then that I hadn’t seen,” he said.  

Mr Lawler claimed he has since been the target of abusive, defamatory and inaccurate letters and a “slanderous” social media campaign. 

He alleged a businessman associated with Advantage and two other people stood outside a recent Awabakal meeting, handing out flyers making similar allegations.

“My local residential area was letter-boxed with those flyers that same evening and it’s clear from the Facebook post from Advantage that I’m being stalked,” he said. 

“There are quite a lot of photos that are nothing other than me just going about my business.” 

Mr Lawler has reported the matters to police....

 Mr Chen described Ms Bakis’ appointment as “more than a little curious”, given that the land council had been making use of a “highly experienced” commercial and property lawyer. 

He further alleged that Ms Bakis was appointed by Mr Green without the board’s authority until a motion to ratify her appointment more than a year later. 

It’s understood that Ms Bakis will argue that she was always given to understand her appointment was authorised. 

Mr Lawler told the hearing that when he was installed he did not find any records relating to Ms Bakis’ appointment and when he asked for them, it triggered a “flow” of abusive material. 

“Abuse, complaints, accusations and being told that she’s not my secretary and that I’m a thief, it just goes on,” he said. 

“I have never experienced – let alone from a professional person – I’ve never experienced the style in which Ms Bakis writes … clearly [she was] an angry little ant.” 

The Newcastle Herald reporting on Day Two, 28 March 2018:

 A corruption inquiry has been told board minutes of the Awabakal land council appear to have been falsified to show it voted in favour of selling land to a company tied to disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias. 

It came as a Sydney developer told the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) he did not understand how a reference to the same company – Gows Heat Pty Ltd – ended up in documentation he prepared on the development of the land…. 

Mr Petroulias was a “common feature” in all of the deals and Gows Heat a shelf company he controlled, it has been alleged.  

In the witness box on Wednesday was Omar Abdullah, a building designer and new home specialist based in Sydney. 

He made an overture to the land council in late 2014, after he was informed by a business contact it had property ripe for development. 

Mr Abdullah told the inquiry he was given an opportunity to meet with Awabakal’s board and present it with discussion material on potential developments. 

He felt the presentation was met with a “positive reaction”, but Mr Abdullah did not pursue a deal when he got “nothing formal back” from the board.

The inquiry previously heard a “critical matter” will be an allegation from Mr Petroulias that the presentation was made jointly with Gows Heat. 

When asked if he had ever heard of Gows, Mr Abdullah replied “absolutely not”. 

Mr Abdullah was then shown a document that appeared to be identical to the one he circulated during the presentation, but included a reference to Gows Heat. 

“I’ve never seen this document,” he said. 

The land council’s chief executive at the time, Steven Slee, was questioned over his recollection events. 

Mr Slee told the inquiry the board resolved to contact Mr Abdullah to pursue the land proposal, a resolution reflected in typed and signed minutes and a “running list” of resolutions kept at the land council’s offices.  

Council assisting Nicholas Chen SC tendered those documents as evidence, before presenting Mr Slee with an additional book containing handwritten minutes. 

Mr Slee agreed it appeared someone had written extra words around the resolution. 
He was unable to decipher what they said, but observed they started with the letters “Go”. 

Mr Slee was then shown a different resolution that appeared to have been stapled into the minute book, recording a decision to push ahead with the sale of the land to Gows Heat. 

“Mr Slee, whilst you were CEO was it the practice of the board to staple resolutions into minute books?” Mr Chen asked. 

“No,” Mr Slee responded, agreeing it appeared someone had tampered with the minutes. He was unable to pinpoint who it might be. 

The Newcastle Herald reporting on  Day Five, 5 April 2018:

As an experienced property developer and qualified valuer based in Sydney, Matthew Fisk knew his way around a land deal.

But as he bargained with the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council over land it owned at Warners Bay, there were aspects of the negotiations that struck him as strange.

One of the more “unusual” elements, Mr Fisk told an Independent Commission against Corruption inquiry, was the role of disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias and an instance where Mr Petroulias allegedly “scribbled out” a figure in a contract….

Mr Zong later took – and dropped – legal action against the land council, claiming he was not informed the deal did not have proper authorisation.

Mr Zong’s involvement began in 2015, when he attended a meeting at Warners Bay McDonalds over a potential land deal. 

Mr Fisk told the inquiry he accompanied Mr Zong to the meeting, also attended by Mr Green and Mr Petroulias.

The parties were allegedly brought together by a former inmate who served time with Mr Petroulias at Silverwater jail – Sammy Say  – who was acquainted with a contact of Mr Zong. 

Mr Fisk recalled one of the third parties introducing Mr Petroulias as a lawyer acting for the land council. 

So he was surprised – at the end of a tour – when he was informed that Mr Petroulias had a “larger interest”.

“I believe it was Sammy Say that had used words to the effect that Nick has already put the deal together,” Mr Fisk recalled. “Then Nick proceeded with he already has an option to acquire these five parcels of land and it would be, in fact, us … acquiring Nick’s option moving forward.” 

An option is where a potential buyer pays a vendor for the right to purchase their property at a fixed price at a later time. The vendor can not sell the property to a third party in that period. 

Council assisting Nicholas Chen asked Mr Fisk if he thought it unusual that the land council’s lawyer would have an option over its land. 

“I thought it was quite unusual, particularly that when I asked what the purchase price was I was told that it was to be subject to valuation,” Mr Fisk said. 

According to Mr Fisk, another odd twist came as a contract was being signed with the amount to be paid out to Gows Heat. 

“After Mr Zong had signed the document Mr Petroulias then lent over, scribbled out $250,000, wrote $673,000 and then initialled it,” Mr Fisk said. 

“Tony [Zong] said, look, he said to Nick, ‘what are you doing?’ I don’t recall the response that was given but I found it very unusual.” 


North Coast Voices’ readers might recall that Nick Petroulias (using the name Nicholas Peterson) and Richard Green gave sworn evidence before the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 INQUIRY INTO CROWN LAND, as part of United Land Councils' lobbying for the potentially environmentally destructive Yamba Mega Port proposal.

Before Operation Skyline’s public hearing began, one of those named in the inquiry began short-lived and unsuccessful proceedings in Knightsbridge North Lawyers Pty Limited v Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The matter of the proposed Awabakal land sales was also before the NSW Supreme Court in 2017….

The Newcastle Herald, 21 October 2017:

The matter is the subject of a Supreme Court legal battle that veteran lawyers have described as one of the most extraordinary cases they have seen in their careers.

Labelled by a lawyer familiar with the case as a real-life version of “Alice in Wonderland”, its cast of characters includes an international fugitive known as Robbie Rocket, a convicted drug dealer and a dead company director who somehow continued signing agreements a year after he was cremated in a Sydney cemetery.

The existence of an international money laundering syndicate and a karaoke junket intended as a bribery attempt are among the other sensational allegations contained within thousands of pages of evidence that have been tendered to the court.

Last year in an unrelated matter Mr. Petroulias was the defendant in Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v Petroulias [2017] NSWSC 1290 (28 September 2017), excerpts:

When this matter came on for hearing before me there was no appearance on behalf of the defendant. The defendant now goes by the name Michael Felson. For abundant caution both of his names were called outside court three times….

During the hearing I was informed that the defendant is an undischarged bankrupt. He was declared bankrupt by a sequestration order made by the Federal Circuit Court on 23 October 2014. His statement of affairs was filed on 10 March 2015. He will thus be eligible to be discharged from bankruptcy on 10 March 2018.

Friday, 9 February 2018

One of the reasons why local government, traditional owners and communities in the Clarence Valley should be very wary of home-grown and foreign lobbyists, investment consortiums and land developers – Part Two


Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council still attempting to resolve legal issues flowing from failed development proposals.

Newcastle Herald, 3 February 2018:

Companies belonging to Sydney-based businessman Tony Zong have agreed to discontinue legal action against the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, over a failed deal to buy $12.6 million worth of Aboriginal land across the city. 

However the complicated legal saga over the land at Warners Bay and Braye Park – that has entangled several parties and involves disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias – has distance left to run.

A cross-claim launched by the land council against the other parties involved – including a Sydney law firm and a mysterious company known as Gows Heat – remains unresolved. 

In the Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Rowan Darke sent the cross-claim to mediation. 

He was also forced to strike “scandalous” material from the court’s file, contained in two affidavits of the solicitor acting for Gows Heat. 

The land council’s barrister, Jeremy Kirk SC, complained about “truly scandalous” material in at least one of the affidavits, and allegations targeting himself and his instructing solicitor.

Mr Kirk acknowledged he was a “big boy” but said the material had the potential to be “very hurtful” to people other than the litigants.

“Yes, we’re all big boys, but it’s not the sort of material that should find its way into solicitor’s correspondence or affidavits,” Justice Darke replied. 

One of the targets of the cross-claim is Despina Bakis, a solicitor with Knightsbridge North Lawyers, who has been accused of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. 

The barrister acting on her behalf, Jeffrey Rose, argued there should not be mediation until the land council produced expert evidence demonstrating how his client had behaved negligently……..

Justice Darke agreed to mediation, but warned that if the land council did not rely on expert evidence, it would need to explain its case with “clarity and force”. 

A separate lawsuit against the land council, which has seen a caveat placed over the post office, was also sent to mediation on Friday. 

The plaintiffs – Knightsbridge North Lawyers and Advantage Property Experts Syndications – claim they are together owed a sum of more than $326,700 for their involvement in Awabakal land redevelopment. 

BACKGROUND


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

One of the reasons why local government, traditional owners and communities in the Clarence Valley should be very wary of home-grown and foreign lobbyists, investment consortiums and land developers


On 15 August 2016 four representatives of United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd gave evidence before the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 INQUIRY INTO CROWN LAND.

One of the projects put forward to the Inquiry by those representatives was the industrialisation of the Clarence River estuary by way of construction of a mega freight port.

The following tale involves a number of persons or firms associated with the aforementioned  companies and this mega port & rail project, including Nick Petroulias aka Michael Felson aka Nick Peterson.

The Newcastle Herald, 21 October 2017:

HE WAS brash and brilliant. A young lawyer from Melbourne who became a rising star of the public service, hand-picked to serve as assistant tax commissioner by the age of 30.

That was until a spectacular fall from grace left Nick Petroulias jailed for using his plum position to do the very thing he was tasked with stamping out: defrauding the tax office.

Since his release from prison in 2010, Mr Petroulias has kept a low profile, going by a number of aliases including Michael Felson and Nick Petersen.

He described himself as a “disabled pensioner” on bankruptcy forms in 2015, with his debts estimated at an eye-watering $104 million.

But Fairfax Media can reveal that he has been accused of working behind the scenes to dupe a wealthy Chinese property developer into the illegal purchase of $12.6 million of Aboriginal land across Newcastle.

The matter is the subject of a Supreme Court legal battle that veteran lawyers have described as one of the most extraordinary cases they have seen in their careers.

Labelled by a lawyer familiar with the case as a real-life version of “Alice in Wonderland”, its cast of characters includes an international fugitive known as Robbie Rocket, a convicted drug dealer and a dead company director who somehow continued signing agreements a year after he was cremated in a Sydney cemetery.

The existence of an international money laundering syndicate and a karaoke junket intended as a bribery attempt are among the other sensational allegations contained within thousands of pages of evidence that have been tendered to the court.

Collectively, the lands were valued at $12.6 million.

Two Awabakal board members met with Mr Zong. At the negotiating table, they introduced him to Mr Petroulias – an agent for the parties involved – and Knightsbridge North Lawyers, a firm enlisted to broker the deal.

The only catch, Mr Zong was informed, was that the portfolio of land had already been sold to another buyer a year beforehand.

But he was assured that in return for a payment, that purchaser would remove themself from the picture.

By the end of the year, things appeared to be proceeding smoothly. 

Mr Zong had signed sales contracts, begun pursuing the land’s rezoning and outlaid nearly a million dollars – money he believed was a combination of a deposit and a payout for the former buyer.

But then came a shock announcement that threatened to derail the transaction: the state government had launched an investigation into the land council.

The investigation followed complaints about the land council’s governance and finances.

But Mr Zong alleges he was reassured the deal was still on a steady footing. He claims to have been told by Mr Petroulias that “there was no reason arising from the investigation that would compromise the validity of the transaction documents”. 

However, damning findings from the government’s investigator resulted in the land council being placed into administration. Then, the confirmation came: the sale was off.

Mr Zong ordered the immediate repayment of his $1 million, but his demands were refused. His property development companies – Sunshine Property Investment Group and Sunshine Warners Bay –  launched a civil claim for damages and to recoup the losses.

Caught in the legal crossfire was the land council, its law firm Knightsbridge, and the land’s original buyer, a mysterious company registered under the name Gows Heat.

Since it was placed into administration last year, the Awabakal land council has been under the control of Terry Lawler, a prominent Newcastle financier and philanthropist awarded an OAM in January.

Mr Lawler has recruited a high-powered legal team – including top silk Jeremy Kirk SC – to defend the land council and launch a cross-claim.

They have argued that the sales contracts Mr Zong signed were bogus and none of the proceeds found their way into the land council’s coffers.

Read the full article here.

The Newcastle Herald, 15 December 2017:

A wealthy Chinese developer appears set to withdraw a lawsuit against the Awabakal Aboriginal Local Land Council. 

Tony Zong and his Sunshine Property Investment Group had alleged they were conned into a deal to purchase $12.6 million of Aboriginal land across the city.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court heard the matter – involving disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias – was “painfully close” to being resolved. 

It’s understood Awabakal lawyers want the land council’s costs covered as part of the settlement. 

“There doesn’t seem to be terribly much at issue in the Sunshine matter now except for the terms of discontinuance,” Justice Darke said. 

A separate action against Awabakal is also making its way through the courts. 

Knightsbridge North Lawyers has placed a caveat over the old Newcastle Post Office while it pursues the land council for $26,743 in alleged unpaid fees. 

Justice Darke indicated mediation could occur if the matter remained unresolved when the case returns to court in February. 


Wednesday, 29 November 2017

"Let them sail on to Coffs Harbour" seems to be a frequent shared sentiment expressed by Lower Clarence residents when told of the NSW Berejiklian Government's plans for a cruise ship destination on the Far North Coast


On 21 November 2017 Clarence Valley Council's ordinary monthly meeting considered the issue of giving in principle support for the NSW Government’s plan to designate the Port of Yamba a cruise ship destination and possibly build an international cruise ship terminal within the Clarence River estuary.

The motions and debate which occurred during consideration of Item 14.126/17 were illuminating.

It began at approx.1:50 pm with Clr. Baker immediately jumping in with a motion which was possibly intended to short arm any anti-cruise ship sentiment, but as it was not the first listed it fell to another to get that first word in.

Clr. Clancy’s motion which would exclude council support for a cruise ship terminal (see below) was then read and seconded by Clr. Novak.

Clr. Williamson immediately foreshadowed a motion amending Clr. Clancy’s motion. This amendment excluded dot point one, ie. “Is supportive of infrastructure strategies, initiatives and improvements which promote and well-being of local communities and businesses but specifically exclude the option of the development of a “cruise terminal” for Yamba due to adverse practical, cultural, environmental and social impacts.” The amendment was seconded by Clr. Kingsley.

With a slight rewording by Clr. Baker this eventually became the very truncated resolution adopted by Council (see below), which threw consideration of environmentally sustainable economic development, sustainable growth, the wellbeing of existing businesses and local communities to the wind.

Along the way.......

Clr. Williamson put in his “two bob’s worth” in favour of a broad submission to government and after almost twelve years in local government suprisingly went on to admit to having “zero clue” about any possible practical, cultural, environmental and social impacts an international cruise ship terminal might have, but at the same time insisting he “hadn’t seen any” – presumably because no government report had come his way yet – and that there could be “very strong positives” for supporting the cruise ship industry while supplying fellow councillors with no facts to back this position.

Clr. Clancy observed that the amendment “leaves the door wide open for a cruise port” and attempted to read into the record a letter from a former manager of Goodwood Island Wharf (see text of letter below). Cr. Williamson spoke up to block this.

Clr. Clancy listed local government’s environmental responsibilities under Australian legislation and international treaty. The risk to commercial and recreational fishing. He also canvassed the increased risk of marine pests and the negative effects of dredging for cruise ship access and berthing, including fish and crab disease brought about by a disturbed river bed and raised sediment levels in the water. 

Clancy addressed the genuine community concern with regard to the Yaegl peoples' cultural interests. He told fellow councillors that "Clr. Lysaught said no-one's suggesting dredging. Well I'm sorry, if you're going to have a cruise ship terminal you would have to dredge and you would have to dredge a lot" and “we need to listen to the people of the valley and oppose any suggestion of a [cruise] port which won’t bring any financial value to the valley”.

At one point Clr. Clancy also commented on the tone of the debate and thought it "sad that the only arguments that Clr. Baker's got are based on trying to denigrate local people...I'm lucky because I've got thick skin, I'm used to it, but some of the people out there who are  genuinely concerned about a [cruise] port in Yamba really have good reasons".

Richie Williamson’s glove puppet and seemingly part-time participant in local government Clr. Lysaught gave his opinion - mocking any suggestion that dredging would be needed or could have negative effects and stating he felt assured that all relevant legislation would be obeyed in any future development.

Clr. Ellem gave his take on the Berejiklian Government’s plan for the Port of Yamba; “Well I don’t know who dreams up this stuff, Sydney-based bureaucrats in concert with multinational cruise ship companies……..passengers spend very little money onshore unless they are in  Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney. This is a state government-driven initiative by a government which is ploughing money into Sydney and turning it into grid lock. I think people in Yamba that I speak to wonder what this is all about. Is it throwing out a kite flying project to the people up there to see what kind of response they’d get?  ….I won’t link it to the Mega Port but it’s a similar thing, it causes a lot of concern and angst in the community….if you go onto the website of the draft strategy you punch in “cruise terminals”, “Yamba” nothing comes up – plenty of opportunity for feedback but very scant information on the actual proposal itself. But overseas in Britain and Europe you can call… to book your passage [with] Nobel Caledonia for an Australian Coastal Odyssey, 22 nights from 11,000 pounds….the Caledonian Deck Superior for sole use that’s 15,500 pounds sterling per passenger….their itinerary takes you from Cairns you know down to Melbourne and on or about the morning of October 24 2018 you’ll be landing on Day 16 …in Yamba. “Over breakfast we arrive at the mouth of the Clarence River and the popular holiday resort town of Yamba famed for its spectacular beaches and local seafood. ‘ So we will be retracing the steps of the “explorer Mathew Flinders who visited Yamba in 1799” and we might a look at the Lighthouse no cost and we might go into “the Yamba Historical Museum” gold coin donation or we can duck over to the “Iluka Nature Reserve” no cost and be back on the boat for lunch. Because they trap all of your money, these multinational cruise companies. But that’s what’s going to happen. We’ve had politicians walking along – photo opportunities – and this is the scheduled visitation to Yamba. With no community consultation whatsoever, no feasibility study of whether it is practical or not…..I’ve spoken to retailers in Yamba, they already say they are having a bumper couple of years with the road works that are going on, the bridge works and the amount of tourists coming here by road…. I just think this is a state government overlaying a cookie cutter approach to sort of international, elite tourism and it is quite inappropriate for a small sea port like Yamba but might be appropriate in a place like Eden which has and deep harbour or Coffs which doesn’t have the difficulties of crossing the bar and the lower drafts ….our staff has specifically put this out so this has to be knocked down…let them sail on to Coffs Harbour…..”

Clr Novak described the cruise ship proposal as “a thought bubble” which first came to her attention when earlier this year the NSW Deputy Premier Barilaro announced cruise ships for Yamba and pointed out that the proposal “didn’t really have any social license". She went on to say that no-one "had done any community consult at all around having the bigger ships through here” and that it was incorrect to use the term “further consultation” as she couldn’t recall there being any all consultation at all. Clr. Novak stressed "it’s really important that we actually go to our community and ask them what they want, what they want to see for the future" and, if there is a business case to eventually have these ships entering the port, then council needs to have all adverse practical, environmental, and cultural information before it in order for councillors to make an informed decision.

Clr. Kingsley demonstrated the art of straddling a fence when he urged; "Let's not get lost in all of this because I think it's a bit broader than just cruise ships and I too have concerns about the environmental and in particular the cultural impacts of any potential cruise ship operations.." and then went on to vote for the final motion leaving the door open for cruise ships in the Clarence estuary to be in the final version of the NSW Government sea transport strategy. 

Lastly,  Clr. Simmons admitted receiving “a dozen or so emails” with but all one expressing concern and asked councillors not to support the officer’s recommendation and “that there had been no consultation with the community up ‘til now”. In spite of these admissions he blithely voted to open the door wide to a sea transport plan for Yamba that has no boundaries or limitations due to its deliberate vagueness.

I cannot finish this post without pointing out Clr. Baker’s expressed desire to fill those “irrational”, “hysterical, screeching” Lower Clarence residents and two of his fellow councillors with “a boatload of calm down pills”, maybe even more than one boatload. His continuing efforts to establish a full-blown conspiracy theory was worthy of a Donald Trump. While his assertions of a phantom cruise ship sailing into the Clarence River and parking there for the last two years and an indefinable cruise terminal already in existance were both masterpieces of absurdity. 

“We are already a cruise terminal, ships that are capable already come in……we should not simply fall over because there is fifteen or twenty people who have listened to Clr. Clancy or whoever instructs him to carry these messages to say; stop everything, do not allow anything to even be considered…We don’t have to say to the state government that they’ve gotta be environmentally sustainable – that’s all covered, forget that. It might be great soapbox stuff but for this council it is a non-event….we should just leave this....There has been a cruise ship in the Clarence Valley for two years, parked variously at Palmers Island and at Harwood*”. Clr. Baker was also in a mood “to calm the horses” and decried community concerns saying “That people who go out at this stage on some imaginative opposition are misleading people, they are trying to make themselves relevant…”

*Not so coincidentally Palmers Island have a waterfront site owned by a shipbuilder and Harwood has a commercial slipway where unladened yachts, small day cruise ships, island ferries, barges and small cargo ships have from time to time been laid up for repair, repaint or refit (see images below taken at Harwood Slipway). Boats such as these are of course not what is coming into Port of Yamba next year on its maiden voyage into the Clarence – it will be a 4,200 gross tonnage, 90.6m long,15.3m wide, five decks high, foreign-owned ocean-going cruise ship with up to 114 passengers. A ship which has already done irreparable damage to a pristine reef earlier this year.

You can listen to much of what Clancy, Ellem, Baker, Novak and others said here at https://soundcloud.com/clarence-valley-council/ordinary-council-meeting-21-november-2017-part-1#t=2:00:39.

What became apparent during the debate was that only Greg Clancy, Peter Ellem and Debrah Novak had given some thought to the issues, listened to Lower Clarence residents and voted against opening the door to the international cruise industry. These three councillors recognised that any council decision made on 21 November would be based on a complete absence of planning information and no prior consultation. 

What has become obvious over the last few weeks is that very few people trust the Berejiklian Government's intentions with regard to the Port of Yamba and, this appears to include some of those councillors who actually voted on 21 November to invite the state government to continue to move forward with its plans. 

What has also has come to light after the Future Transport 2058 communications team visited Grafton for the day on 27 November 2017 is that the Berejiklian Government intends to fully exercise its power over New South Wales waterways and, expects to proceed with the creation of a cruise ship terminal no matter what position local government, local communities and traditional owners might hold.

It appears that to a distant Liberal-Nationals government down in Sydney the people living within the Clarence River estuary matter far less than the commercial goals of multinational cruise lines.

Perhaps Premier Berejiklian should think back on what went down - politically and on the ground - when her predecessor supported Metgasco Limited's push to create gas fields across the Northern Rivers region. Then cast her mind a few years futher back to what happened when the federal government supported a proposal to dam and divert water from the Clarence River system.

See any gas fields or a huge new dam and pipeline, Premier? 

BACKGROUND

THE OFFICER RECOMMENDATION

That Council tender a submission to the Draft Future Transport 2056 Strategy which includes the following points:

Clarence Valley Council:
* is supportive of infrastructure strategies, initiatives and improvements which promote sustainable economic and environmental development, and support the growth and well-being of local communities and businesses. In particular, the development of a “cruise terminal” for Yamba should be of an appropriate scale pertaining to the boutique port, the capacity of local physical, economic and social infrastructure, and sensitive to the local Aboriginal cultural beliefs.

* requests further consultation and engagement with Council and the broader community for those projects within the Future Transport 2056 Plan which are identified for investigation.

THE FINAL WORDING OF CR. CLANCY’S MOTION – seconded by Cr. Novak & supported by Cr. Ellem

That Council tender a submission to the Draft Future Transport 2056 Strategy which includes the following points:

Clarence Valley Council:

*       Is supportive of infrastructure strategies, initiatives and improvements which promote environmentally sustainable economic development, and support sustainable growth and well-being of local communities and businesses but specifically exclude the option of the development of a “cruise terminal” for Yamba due to adverse practical, cultural, environmental and social impacts.
*      Requests further consultation and engagement with Council and the broader community for those projects within the Future Transport 2056 Plan which are identified for investigation.

THE FINAL WORDING OF CR. BAKERS’S MOTION* – seconded by Cr. Williamson

That Council tender a submission to the Draft Future Transport 2056 Strategy saying that:
Clarence Valley Council requests further consultation and engagement with Council and the broader community for those projects within the Future Transport 2056 Plan which are identified for investigation.

* This motion became the adopted Council resolution

TEXT OF THE 20 NOVEMBER 2017 LETTER NOT READ INTO THE RECORD ON 21 NOVEMBER 2017

“I spent 22 years in the shipping industry based at the port of Yamba running Yamba Shipping with Captain Ron King.
We spent our time attracting whatever cargo and pleasure vessels we could in order try and expand and promote the port. We invariably had to cut our
ideas down to size due to the vagaries of dealing with a river port which
was constantly silting up and governments both state and federal which did
not understand the needs of the commercial shipping industry.
One of the avenues we tried was to attract small and specialist cruise
vessels here particularly during the nineties and early part of this
century.
At all times the companies that we approached required the following:
- Safe berth - the only berth is Goodwood island which is owned by the RMS
and controlled by the Yamba Port Authority. It is possible that a ship could
anchor in the river but there are restrictions. This would have to be
checked with the Port personnel.
- Customs facilities - officers would have to come from Coffs Harbour to
clear people in if it was allowed - that is not guaranteed. Obviously if a
ship has been cleared inward prior to arriving at the port that would
assist. Maybe you would only deal with small Australian vessels.
- Minimum draft of 4 metres is likely to be required. Those vessels would be
small and it may not be economic for them to bring small numbers of
passengers to Yamba. As I remember the maximum allowable draft would 3 to 3.5 metres plus the height of tide.
- What would the people do here? - what is there right on our doorstep that
would attract people to come? Most cruises have essential ingredients - big
cities; amazing countryside;  challenging adventure sports etc etc.
Yes this is a beautiful area but you need to be able to transport the
passengers very quickly and efficiently to different attractions.
It is unrealistic to think you can bring in larger vessels which would
provide the economies of scale. They would be too big to enter the port both in length, breadth and draft.
- we endeavoured to get the rock reef removed at one time during the late
nineties in order to get vessels of 6 metres draft plus into the port but
after some investigation and discussion with the politicians of the time
from Mayor Joy Matthews to Steve Cansdell and federal politicians we decided we had to back off because of the damage it would cause to the relationship with the indigenous people of the Clarence Valley.
-dredging would undoubtedly be required just to remove siltation at the bar
and the other notorious areas such as Goodwood Island reach and the
environmental considerations that have to be gone through before that can
happen are enormous. It is also an extremely expensive operation.
If you tried to anchor vessels off shore and bring passengers in by barge
you would need very calm conditions which are rare.
My belief is that it is a waste of time to pursue this idea. Hope this
helps.”

DAY CRUISE SHIP “D’CRUISE” NEAR HARWOOD SLIPWAY IN 2014
Photograph supplied
SYDNEY HAROUR CRUISE SHIP "MV CAPTAIN COOK'S EXPLORER" AT HARWOOD SLIPWAY
Photograph found at Harwood Marine