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

Thursday, 11 October 2018

INVITATION FOR PUBLIC COMMENT: Proposed 19.4ha subdivision at Hickey Street, Iluka. curently being assessed as a controlled action


This proposed development of 19.41ha of forested land adjacent to World Heritage Gondwana coastal rainforest in Iluka, NSW, was first sent for public consultation in December 2015.

This is probably the last chance that community members have to offer their opinion on the plan for a 141 lot subdivision on the lot.

The Stevens Group has issued an Invitation for Public Comment which reads in part:

The preliminary documentation for the proposed action is on display and will be publicly available, to be viewed or obtained by download from the online facility without charge, from the 24 September 2018 until 4:30pm (AEST) on the 2 November 2018, at the following locations:

 § Clarence Valley Council Administrative Centre – 2 Prince Street, Grafton, NSW;
 § Clarence Valley Council Administrative Centre – 50 River Street, Maclean, NSW;
 § Iluka Library – Corner Duke Street & Micalo Street, Iluka, NSW;
§ NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Level 4, 49-51 Victoria Street, Grafton, NSW;

§ Online at /www.stevensgroup.com.au%20– a link to the preliminary documentation will be available by selecting the ‘Residential’ page, then by choosing the “Iluka Subdivision – Invitation For Public Comment” tab.

Interested persons and organisations are invited to view the preliminary documentation. Written comments can be directed to Stevens Holdings Pty Limited, C/- Ocean Park Consulting Pty Limited, PO Box 99, Miami, QLD 4220, or email (rangi@oceanparkqld.com.au). 

Deadline for submissions is 2 November 2018.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Yamba, the jewel in the crown of Clarence Valley tourism



The Daily Examiner, 18 September 2018, p.1:

The Clarence Valley is out-performing the whole state in tourism growth, according to Clarence Valley Council, with Yamba the jewel in the crown.

Director environment, planning and community Des Schroder said the Clarence Valley had recorded a 12.2 per cent growth, while NSW had only notched up a 5.7 per cent growth.

Tourism has become one of the Valley’s biggest employers with 6.8 per cent of people employed in the Valley working in tourism and hospitality according to Mr Schroder.

Council statistics show Yamba has become the fourth most visited town in the North Coast behind Byron Bay, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, with more tourists than Ballina, Tweed Heads and Old Bar, Taree.

Mr Schroder said according to NSW tourism research Yamba statistics are merely 30 per cent of Byron Bay’s tourism numbers at the moment, but it might not be that way for long.

“Yamba is growing but it’s not Byron Bay yet from a tourism point of view, but it’s getting up there,” he said.

Mr Schroder added the population of Yamba is fairly stable, but still growing.

He said the influx of people visiting Yamba around Christmas is starting to become a constant stream of tourists all year round.

“The impact of the highway will make a big difference,” Mr Schroder said. “The highway will improve access for people coming to Yamba from the north and south.”

With 30 per cent of tourists visiting Yamba hailing from South-East Queensland he said the council is conscious the tourism in Yamba will continue to grow.

“All council can do is put the framework in place,” Mr Schroder said.

“We need to manage lifestyle for the locals while allowing for tourism growth which balances jobs. You need tourism to create jobs but you don’t want to be over run by tourists.”…….

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Pacific Highway Upgrade has hit a noticeable bump in the road and the fault lies firmly with NSW Roads and Maritime Services, Pacific Complete, the Minister for Roads and the National Party


In July 2018 the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) was called to account by the communities of Woombah and Iluka for a lack of transparency and only paying lip service to community consultation with regard to the Iluka to Devil's Pulpit Section 6 stage of the Pacific Highway upgrade and, the plan to site a temporary asphalt batching plant and a foamed bitumen plant on a rural lot adjoining the Pacific Highway-Iluka Road T-intersection.

Iluka Road is the only road in and out of both of these small villages whose local economies are heavily reliant on a clean, green, family friendly image and nature-based tourism.

This is the official response of the Pacific Highway upgrade consortium to date:

Nationals MP For Clarence Chris Gulaptis in another media release characterised the RMS-Pacific Complete response as Back to the drawing board for Clarence Pacific Highway upgrade asphalt plant temporary asphalt batch plant.

It is unfortunate that he did so, as Woombah residents can clearly see that site preparation on the lot is still proceeding for the temporary asphalt plant and foamed bitumen plant.

Which leaves some residents concerned that Chris Gulaptis is primarily focused on commercial needs of the Pacific Complete consortium and, that NSW Roads and Maritime Services having been caught out are now merely going through the motions so that there is a suitable paper trail should the issue become even more contentious and so come to the notice of Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey.

Residents point out that Jackybulbin and the Rest Area approximately five kilometres away are ideal sites. That the Woombah lot is probably the construction consortium's preferred ancillary site simply because they have an existing lease there.

In response to Gulaptis' spin for the consumption of local media, Woombah and Iluka residents opposing the preferred site have stated in an email:

1. Woombah and Iluka stand united in expressing 'no confidence' in the Laing O'Rourke/Brinkerhoff unincorporated consortium known as "Pacific Complete". Laing O'Orurke is the correct identity for publishing as it is the INSURED PARTY (see attached). Laing O'Rourke Australian arm is for sale and Brinkerhoff is the named party in several issues with previous works such as Lane Cove Tunnel.

2. "Pacific Complete" has been negligent in [failing to notify] the affected members of the communities (all road users of these communities including children on buses and visitors and assessing the proposed shared access roads) and the lack of experience by the "Pacific Complete" Project Team has caused serious distress to the residents of Woombah and Iluka due to two failed communications engagements.

3. "Pacific Complete" and the Roads & Maritime Service NSW has pursued it's objectives and shown complete disregard toward the genuine safety and security issues that will be faced by residents using Iluka Rd to the Iluka Road Pacific Highway turn-off.

4. "Pacific Complete" failed in its duty to correctly identify and assess all viable sites for the asphalt plant.

5. At this time "Pacific Complete" and RMS have offered no traffic solution in the event that no other suitable location of the plant can be identified.

6. Should "Pacific Complete" and the RMS pursue the Woombah site for the Asphalt Batch Plant with no dedicated route for construction/plant vehicles, residents of Woombah & Iluka will consider forming a class action lawsuit against the parties for wilful endangerment.

7. Objectives now are to monitor Pacific Complete to take the preferred site as one of other now five options that do not affect traffic, local residents and the environment.

8. January is Pacific Complete peak movement of trucks month for the Asphalt Plant. They did not consider this ….would affect our peak Holiday period?

Research by local residents also suggests that RMS and Pacific Complete may not be fully compliant with guidelines for the establishment of ancillary facilities when it comes to the Woombah site.

Of particular concern is; (i) the south west flow of surface water on the lot and, whether during any high rainfall event over the next two and a half years, contaminated water might escape and flow from the batching plant infrastructure into the 80ha Mororo Creek Nature Reserve and then along the final est. 2.5km length of the creek which empties into the Clarence River estuary and (ii) the proposed shared access road for heavy trucks and residents' cars and school buses now intersects with the proposed ancillary site at a point which is a known koala crossing.


Image contributed

The next NSW state election will be held on 23 March 2019 in just eight months time.

If the Woobah site remains the preferred site, by then the asphalt batching plant (and possibly the foamed bitumen plant) will have been operational for at least five months and up to 500 heavy truck movements a day will have been occurring over that time with peak activity coinciding with the Woombah-Iluka annual summer tourism period 

One wonders what the Berejiklian Government down in Sydney and the NSW National Party were thinking.

Do they really believe the dust, noise, odour and disruptive traffic will endear Chris Gulaptis to voters in these towns on polling day?

Monday, 23 July 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 Three


In July 2018 the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) continues to hear evidence in Operation Skyline.

An organisation called United Land Councils Limited was mentioned as allegedly sending its then sole director Richard Green around New South Wales to talk with local aboriginal land councils concerning certain proposals.

These trips appear to have commenced sometime in 2015.

At least one trip taken in 2016 by Mr. Green was to Yamba in the Clarence Valley, allegedly at the behest of Nicholas Petroulias.

The subject of the alleged discussion/s with the Yaegl community in Yamba was the creation of a large port in the Clarence River estuary.

It shoud be noted that by July 2016 Yaegl elders and the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation were strongly opposed to a mega port being created in the estuary.

Mainstream media has been following current events as they unfolded.....

The Daily Telegraph, 13 July 2018:

AUSTRALIA’S youngest ever tax chief is behind bars after ­allegedly being caught with a wallet full of counterfeit cash, bank cards in different names and dodgy driver’s licences.

Nick Petroulias, once the nation’s second most powerful tax official, appeared before Burwood Local Court as Michael Nicholas Felson earlier this week having been pulled over by police while driving his luxury black BMW X5.

When the officers stopped him in inner-west Sydney on June 20, the 50-year-old is alleged to have handed them a current New Zealand driver’s licence in the name of another alias, Nicholas James Piers.

Police will allege that inquiries revealed Piers was a permanent resident of Australia and allegedly had a number of aliases including Nick Petersen, Michael Felson as well as his real name — Nick Petroulias.

Under his various aliases he is alleged to have held one NSW driver’s licence, three Queensland licences, one from Victoria and another from Tasmania, only two of which were current. He has not been charged over those licences.

Once a Melbourne legal whiz-kid, Petroulias (pictured left) was made assistant commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office at the age of 30. In 2014 he was declared bankrupt with eye-watering estimated debts of $104 million.

On Tuesday he appeared in court via videolink from Silverwater Jail dressed in prison greens as he used his fingers to flatten the “comb-over” hiding his bald head.

Court documents show he has pleaded not guilty to knowingly possessing seven counterfeit Australian $50 bank notes and two counts of possessing bank cards with the intention of committing fraud. He was refused police bail on June 20 and refused bail in Burwood Local Court the next day.

His case has been adjourned to August 14 when the court was told he will make a fresh bail application.

Newcastle Herald, 17 July 2018:

A member of the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council has admitted to giving false evidence to the Independent Commission against Corruption and disobeying orders not to discuss its inquiry with other potential witnesses, after an intercepted phone call was played in which he told former tax official Nick Petroulias about an inquiry into land deals with which the pair were involved.

But Richard Green, former deputy chair of Awabakal, denied he was “tipping off” Mr Petroulias about the ICAC inquiry.

He was reprimanded by Commissioner Peter Hall QC for failing to answer questions directly.

“Mr Green if you're going to obstruct this commission you could be putting yourself into real trouble,” Commissioner Hall said.

On Monday, Mr Green was questioned about whether he spoke to anyone after receiving a summons from the ICAC in January, telling him he would be required to appear before its Operation Skyline public hearings and warning him not to discuss the matter with any other person.

When pressed by counsel assisting the commission, Nicholas Chen SC, Mr Green admitted he had a brief conversation with Mr Petroulias about the summons, but said it was because he had not read the warning contained within the letter.

However minutes later, a phone intercept was played where Mr Green was heard to read the contents of the letter to Mr Petroulias, including the direction to keep the summons confidential.

“That was contrary to the clear and express statement of what you were not permitted to do. Isn't that right?” Mr Chen said. “What's your excuse, Mr Green, for doing that?”

“Like I said before I don't – I haven't got an excuse,” Mr Green responded.

The inquiry heard that Mr Petroulias is in custody on unrelated charges. 

The former tax office high flyer is accused of playing a "central role" in four deals to sell off Awabakal land. The ICAC is investigating whether the deals were a sham to benefit Mr Petroulias, his lawyer partner Despina Bakis, and Awabakal board members Mr Green and Debbie Dates.

Mr Green conceded that his signature appeared on a number of the sales agreements. However he insisted he could not read well and had not read through documents when they were given to him to sign by either Mr Petroulias or Ms Bakis.
He could not explain why he signed the documents without telling other board members about them, despite board approval being a requirement of land sales. He agreed his behaviour was "reckless in the extreme" but denied he benefited financially from it.

"When you've got a person acting like Nick you take notice of them," he said. "And I keep saying over and over if people understand how Aboriginal land councils function they will understand what I'm talking about.''

Newcastle Herald, 19 July 2018:

Luxury cars, gold jewellery, and Foxtel subscriptions were among the items that Richard Green bought with money disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias provided to him, allegedly for helping facilitate the sale of Aboriginal-owned land in the Lower Hunter.  

The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Wednesday that Mr Green, a former land council board member, is alleged to have received an estimated $145,000 between 2014 and 2016 for his personal benefit from Mr Petroulias. 

The money was received via several bank and credit card accounts that were operated in Mr Green’s name, but which appear to have been opened on behalf of him by Mr Petroulias. 

Mr Green appeared confused when presented with statements from some of the accounts and denied any prior knowledge of others. 

The commission is investigating whether a series of deals to sell Awabakal land to developers were a “ruse” to benefit former board members Richard Green or Debbie Dates.

It is also probing whether the first of the deals was a sham set up by Mr Petroulias – using a company he allegedly controlled called Gows Heat – so he could on-sell his interests to other buyers. 

BACKGROUND

25 September 2016 What's in a name?
  

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

NSW Berejiklian Government 2018: How not to conduct a community consultation in the Clarence Valley, NSW



The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 10 July 2018, p.13:

So Road and Maritime Services intends to establish a temporary asphalt batching plant at Woombah with a heavy truck access road crossing Iluka Road approximately 230 metres from the Pacific Highway T-intersection.

One couldn’t choose a site more unsafe for private vehicles and more disruptive to tourist traffic. One that also is less than 500 metres from a waterway which empties into the Clarence River Estuary.

One couldn’t find a more inadequate approach to community consultation.

The Pillar Valley community were given an RMS community information session scheduled to last one and a half hours in May 2016 ahead of construction of a temporary batching plant there.

In September 2016 the Donnellyville community received a detailed 5-page information document at least a month ahead of construction and this included an aerial map showing infrastructure layout within the proposed temporary batching plant site. Up front the community was allotted two drop-in information sessions.
Most of the residents in Woombah and Iluka appear to have found out about the proposed temporary plant planned for Woombah in July 2018, the same month construction is due to start.

This plant will be in use for the next two and a half years but only a few residents were given some rudimentary information in a 3-page document and initially the community was not even offered a drop-in information session.

Perhaps the NSW Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, and Roads and Maritime Services might like to explain the haphazard, belated approach taken to informing the communities of Woombah and Iluka of the proposed plant.

The people of Woombah and Iluka deserve better. They deserve a formal information night which canvasses all the issues, with representatives from RMS and the Pacific Highway project team prepared to address concerns and answer questions, as well as a representative of the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight in attendance as an observer.

They don’t deserve to be fobbed off with a quick patch-up, comprising a drop-in information session and one RMS representative deciding to attend a local community run meeting.

I’m sure that all residents and business owners in both Woombah and Iluka would appreciate a departmental re-think of this situation.

Judith Melville, Yamba

It is also beginning to look as though Roads and Maritime Services is only just getting around to meeting with Clarence Valley shire councillors as a group this week to brief them on the asphalt batching plant site.

Friday, 6 July 2018

A CERTAIN RMS ASPHALT BATCHING PLANT: Open Letter to NSW Premier & Liberal MP for Willoughby, Gladys Berejiklian, as well as Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight & Nationals MP for Oxley, Melinda Pavey


Dear Premier Berejiklian and Minister Pavey,

Communities in the Clarence River estuary are concerned about an aspect of the NSW Government's current Pacific Highway construction planning.

Below are some of those concerns expressed to local newspaper The Daily Examiner with regard to a Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) plan to install a temporary asphalt batching plant at Woombah on the Clarence River flood plain.

The build is scheduled to start this month and the plant will operate for the next two and a half years.

Please note the attitude – local residents are not amused at the high-handed way in which the NSW Government and RMS went about a cursory declaration of intent.

“What they’re not happy about is an asphalt batching plant being built right near their houses, using their only connecting road to the villages”

“We want the highway, and we want the asphalt plant to be somewhere, but we want it to be away from our communities where it won’t impact on our health and safety”

“The plant will add a reported 500 truck moments and 100 car movements per day at peak, or one every minute, and residents are concerned the additional traffic will create safety problems, and a bottleneck at their intersection, which they already describe as “tight” after it was temporarily re-routed. They also cite concerns over possible health affects the dust may cause for nearby residents.”

We have a resident as close as 450 metres from the plant who is suffering from lung cancer….Although Pacific Complete have been made aware of this, since they were first told they have failed to take action to acknowledge her.”

“We live within one kilometre of the plant and we found out two weeks ago by letterbox drop”

“We found out last Wednesday they didn’t tell anyone else. We’ve been around to other residents who are just outside the area and they had no idea the plant was coming at all.”

I also draw your attention to the content of emails coming out of Iluka:

Woombah is surrounded by World Heritage National Park. Within the waterways affected by run off from the proposed asphalt plant is the organic Solum Farm. Woombah Coffee will also be affected. Not to mention the multiple organic gardners who sell at the Yamba Markets and those who grow their own food.

The small community of Woombah and its neighbour Iluka are places that welcome tourists for the natural and clean beauty of the environment. An asphalt plant WILL threaten that. 

In addition, the Esk River at Woombah is fed by many of the creeks and waterways in the bushland where the asphalt plant is proposed. They will be adversely affected, which will flow into the Esk which will flow into the Clarence which will affect the fishing, oyster and prawn industries, on which many make their living. Not to mention the tourist industry that survives because our area offers a clean environment with unpolluted air and water.

This proposal is an outrage. Teven said NO. Woombah says NO as well.​”

“What about our kids on school buses with no seatbelts and the increase in traffic particularly trucks”

“Iluka Naturally, turn off at the asphalt plant, how ironic.”

For my own part I would add to these expressions of concern the fact that the 80ha, NPWS-managed Mororo Creek Nature Reserve is only est. 98 metres from the western end of the southern boundary of the proposed asphalt batching site. 

This protected land parcel is one of the reserves which form part of a forested corridor linking Bundjalung National Park to the east and the protected areas of the Richmond Range to the west. It lies within the boundaries of the Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council area, the Clarence Valley Local Government Area and the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

The Mororo Creek Reserve conserves areas of endangered swamp sclerophyll forest, coastal saltmarsh, subtropical coastal floodplain forest and swamp oak floodplain forest.

Most importantly, Mororo Creek and several of its tributaries which run through this reserve empty into the Clarence River Estuary less than est. 2km from the proposed asphalt batching site.

Now I have no idea why the NSW Government decided that a brief three-page information sheet and invitation to comment published online at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/projects/northern-nsw/woolgoolga-to-ballina/w2b-woombah-batch-plant-notification-2018-06.pdf was to be the limit of its community consultation effort or why a similar document was sent at short notice to such a small number of Woombah residents.

I don’t pretend to understand why the information sheet contained just one small image of a section of a Pillar Valley temporary asphalt batching plant with no description of typical batching plant infrastructure and no Woombah site layout plan at all, much less one to scale.

There was not a hint in the information sheet of the range of known issues which can arise during site construction, plant operation and site rehabilitation.

Those residents who were originally invited to comment were supplied with less than rudimentary information on which to assess the desirability of a batching plant on the designated site.

Given that the proposed Woombah asphalt batching plant site is est. 2 to 2.5kms as the crow flies from Clarence River estuary waters which:

(1) are covered by Yaegl Native Title;

(2) at certain points are covered by international treaties, including JAMBA, CAMBA, ROKAMBA;

(3) contain the second largest area of seagrass (83 ha), the largest area of mangroves (765 ha) and the third largest area of saltmarsh (290ha) in the northern rivers region [Williams et al 2006 in Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan 2010];

(4) are part of the largest combined river-ocean fishery in NSW containing high fisheries value marine species; and

(5) are a vital component of regional tourism, 

perhaps Premier Berejiklian and Minister Pavey can answer two vital questions.

1. Is the Woombah asphalt batching plant site above the 100 year flood level for the lower Clarence Valley flood plain?

Because if it is not, then the NSW Government’s cavalier attitude to flood risk management would potentially see toxic waste from asphalt batching flow into the Clarence River estuary during a flood event – including solid waste and any organic solvents/hydrocarbons captured in holding ponds for the life of the plant – along with any nearby excavated plant/road construction materials. After all, extreme flood event height predictions for that general area are 3.5 to 4.5 mAHD.

2. Why on earth was a decision made to site the asphalt batching plant and access road at a point along the Pacific Highway where it would cause the maximum damage to Iluka’s clean, green destination image and vital tourism trade?

When the NSW Government first mooted the Pacific Highway upgrade on the North Coast one of the advantages it canvassed was an increase in tourism numbers due to better road conditions.


Most of these visitors holidayed along the Clarence Coast and Iluka is a strong component of that coastal tourism.

If the NSW Government seriously believes that leaving Woombah-Iluka with only one safe, unimpeded access point for day, weekend and long-stay visitors, the Yamba to Iluka foot passenger only ferry, will not significantly affect tourism numbers over the course of two and a half years, one has to wonder if it bothered to investigate the issue at all before signing off on the proposed plant site.

The effect of siting the asphalt batching plant and access road on the designated site will in all likelihood have the effect of diminishing not growing tourism traffic to Iluka for a period beyond the years it actually takes to complete the Maclean to Devil’s Pulpit section of the highway upgrade, as visitor perception of a holiday area can change when industrial level activity becomes visually prominent.

When it comes to commitment to the community consultation process, the NSW Government obviously hasn’t insisted that Roads and Maritime Services live up to its undertaking to engage with communities to understand their needs and consider these when making decisions.

In fact, looking at satellite images of the site one cannot escape the suspicion that pre-construction ground preparation had already commenced before any information was sent out to selected Woombah residents.

Since news of the asphalt batching plan site reached the Lower Clarence and residents began to approach their local state member, there appears to have been a promise made to hold a "drop-in information session" at an unspecified date.

Having experienced NSW departmental drop-in information sessions, I am well aware that they are of limited value as purveyors of anything other that the meagre degree of information found in the aforementioned three page RMS document and, ineffectual as vehicles for genuine community consultation.

The people of Woombah and Iluka deserve better.  They deserve a formal information night which canvasses all the issues, with representatives from RMS and the Pacific Highway project team prepared to address concerns and answer questions, as well as representatives of both the Premier and Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight in attendance as observers.

I’m sure that all residents and business owners in both Woombah and Iluka would appreciate both Premier and Minster taking the time to consider these questions and ensure government genuinely consults with both village communities before considering proceeding with any Roads and Maritime Servces site proposal.

Sincerely,


Clarence  Girl

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.