Chinese property developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee has again left locals in the Port Stephens area near his Bundabah property up in arms, this time over his proposal for a quarry on the bushland site that was once hoped to be a national park.
The 400-hectare property adjoining Myall Lakes National Park is already subject to stop work and clean up orders by the Land and Environment Court amid concerns to threatened species, unauthorised land clearing and road works.
More than 150 locals crammed into the local community hall on the weekend and voted overwhelmingly against Mr Lee’s latest proposal for a quarry allowing the extraction of 25,000 cubic metres of rock he hopes to use to build a road through the property to his already approved private jetty and an 11-bedroom mansion atop Fame Mountain.
Phillip Dong Fang Lee and wife Shi Xiaobei bought the Mandalay mansion in Point Piper for $39.9 million in 2015.
The DA comes as Mr Lee and Mid-Coast Council continue mediation meetings to try to resolve the current stop work orders outside court.
At the meeting organised by the North Arm Cove Residents Association Fame Cove Subcommittee locals voted against the DA on the grounds of the environmental damage it would cause as well as the visual and noise pollution that it would create for about 300 residents.
Joining the chorus of opposition is local Labor MP Kate Washington, who said on Tuesday, “People move here to enjoy the peace and serenity, not to be subjected to the noise that comes with quarrying hard rock all day”.
“[Mr Lee] has lost his social licence to act as he wants on the site not only because of his history of environmental damage, but the lack of trust in the community that he will adhere to any conditions imposed on it,” Ms Washington said.
“I certainly urged his representative to take back to Mr Lee the community’s concerns that in light of the on-going stop work orders he should withdraw the DA for the quarry and first clean up the environmental mess he has made.”
Mr Lee’s consultant Brett Peterkin, of Peterkin Consulting, attended the weekend meeting and said they are reviewing their DA application.
Honorary chief executive of the Karuah Aboriginal Land Council and former deputy mayor Len Roberts said a quarry would dramatically scar the land and destroy the Aboriginal significance of the landscape.
But Mr Roberts said he was heartened by moves by Mr Lee this week to include the local Aboriginal land council in the establishment of an Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan.
“Like many in the community we’re still wary if this is just lip service by Mr Lee’s people or something more. Time will tell,” said Mr Roberts.
Mr Lee’s environmental credentials have taken a battering since he bought the property in 2006 for $8.8 million. In 2009 his Tea Garden Farms company had to pay almost $200,000 in fines and costs when sediment-polluted water flowed into North Arm Cove after a dam wall failed during excavation work. In 2014 he was fined $8000 after a section of bushland was cleared and the felled trees left in a protected marine sanctuary.
Mr Lee’s property at Bundabah is set on a renowned boating haven that was hoped to become national park in the late 1990s when the building and construction material company Boral offered it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for $1.1 million.
That plan never eventuated and it was later sold into private hands.
Mr Lee, who owns the $39.9 million Point Piper trophy home Mandalay with his wife Shi Xiaobei, has accumulated more than $25.2 million of rural and bushland property in the Port Stephens area in company names covering more than 2700 hectares from Tea Gardens to nearby Nerang.