Thursday, January 26, 2017

Political donor hits jackpot as land rush starts

Political donor hits jackpot as land rush starts

Ringing the changes: developer Liansheng Yue.
The Queensland government has given preliminary approval for a $750 million resort despite it being in protected koala habitat and proposed by a Chinese developer who made more than $60,000 in political donations to the local mayor.
The ALP Palaszczuk government’s granting of “preliminary approval” for the 1500-unit high-density resort at Carbrook, part of a “green corridor” between Brisbane and the Gold Coast is causing developers to scramble for more land in the area.
The project, named The Lakes, is seen as a litmus test for whether the last green space separating Brisbane from the Gold Coast — set aside as preservation land two decades ago by the then ALP Goss government — will be opened up for property development.
A spokeswoman for Queensland Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Jackie Trad said the government had no choice but to provide preliminary approvals for The Lakes project because the former LNP Newman government had changed laws to give more power to local councils.
“Previously, the state government had an increased role in assessing these types of devel­opments, but the former LNP government delegated these ­powers to councils,” the spokeswoman said.
“Therefore, once Logan City Council accepted the application, the state was not able to refuse it.”
Developer Australian SN International Development Group — whose head Liansheng Yue last year donated $63,300 to the election campaign of the Logan mayor — is seeking ­approval from the council to rezone the Carbrook site from “rural tourism” to “resort”.
There is no suggestion that Mr Yue’s donations were made inappropriately,
He bought the main parcel of farming land comprising the site — which is surrounded by wetlands conservation areas, farmland and aquaculture ponds — for $843,000 in March 2009 and stands to make about 100 times that if the project proceeds.
Other developers are circling in the hope of similar windfalls.
Kathy Milwain, who lives across the road from the proposed project, which she strongly opposes, said she and other neighbours had recently received letters from house and land subdivision giant Villawood Properties seeking to buy their land.
“I told them the zoning is different and so they couldn’t develop here and they said, ‘You don’t have to worry about it, ­zonings are changed every single day’,” Ms Milwain said.
“It’s ridiculous, I can’t even remove a tree or divide the place in two to give half to my daughter, but they can come in here with lots of money and rip up the place.”
Villawood Properties did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite The Lakes project being opposed by locals and those who provided public submissions ——28 of 29 responses were against the development — observers expect Logan council to approve the project.
The state government can “call-in” any development project and make the final call on whether it will proceed or not.
Jonathan Sri, a Greens member of the Brisbane City Council, said the government should call in the project, which seemed to ­“directly conflict with the government’s regional plan”.
“I can’t see why they’re supporting it … the problem is there’s one set of rules for a few big developers and another rule for the rest of us,” Mr Sri said.
Mr Yue and his company have repeatedly declined to comment when contacted by The Australian in recent months.