IT’s about a new road … the Council … the boyfriend … and buyers from the big neighbour up north …
23 AUGUST 2014
DODGY DOINGS IN THE HAWKESBURY EXPOSED IN PARLIAMENT
Hawkesbury Councillor Sarah Richards and her developer boyfriend, Matthew Bennett, get a mention in parliament for all the wrong reasons.
Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (19:14): Once again I wish to discuss a serious set of concerns I have about the political scene in my electorate of Blue Mountains. Last sitting week I discussed the secret sting operation conducted by Timothy Donelan against Daniel Myles and the broader implication of a push to remove good decent people like Mr Myles from the Liberal council team and replace them with council candidates who will toe the line on a property development agenda that will result in the Blue Mountains landscape being razed and plundered.
Members in this place will have heard me speak about the Government’s ill-considered plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall. As I have outlined, alongside a great many other Labor MPs in this place, the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall will have no impact on flood risk, but what it will allow is the development of floodplains in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region that currently are locked up because the flood risk is too high.
Last week I spoke about how Matthew Bennett uses a number of fake names on social media to attack Labor figures. I also have proof that he participated in the fake SMS scandal that engulfed the Laffin Liberal State campaign.
Matthew Bennett claimed to have received the fake SMS which purported to be from me and he attempted to pique the interest in it of a journalist at a right-wing radio station.
Matthew Bennett is a property developer and the domestic partner of Sarah Richards, the Liberal candidate for Macquarie and a serving Liberal councillor at the Hawkesbury City Council.
The website which Ms Richards established for her preselection tilt, “Sarah is Hawkesbury” at sarahishawkesbury.com.au was registered using the ABN of a property development company, Sage Property Holdings Pty Limited, of which Matthew Bennett is the director and secretary.
Sage Property Holdings is in partnership with another property developer, Casula Developments, which is run by Christopher John Burton. Casula Developments is co-located with Burton Constructions, which enjoys prequalification for road and civil works projects by Roads and Maritime Services [RMS] for up to $100 million.
I am aware that private members’ statements should relate to a member’s electorate and this is where it gets interesting. Mr Bennett has met with community representatives seeking wider support for an alternative route that he purports to have designed himself for the Bells Line of Road-Castlereagh Road corridor proposal, which is to run through my electorate.
He has boasted of having Chinese property investors ready to buy land along the alternative route he is proposing.
I also understand that Mr Bennett now resides with Sarah Richards in what is known as the Redbank estate. This development was the subject of ICAC Operation Spicer and in so far as it was the approval of the Redbank estate development and a developer donation to former member for Londonderry, Bart Bassett, that caused such controversy in recent times, it is also worth noting that Sarah Richards was formerly employed in the office of Mr Bassett during the parliamentary term in which he was proven to have received illegal donations.
So we have the Liberal candidate for Macquarie, Sarah Richards, who is a serving Hawkesbury councillor and who is a former staffer to the disgraced Bart Bassett and whose campaign manager and domestic partner, Matthew Bennett, is a property developer with ties to an RMS roads contractor.
They are spruiking a new road corridor into the Blue Mountains, which falls within the Macquarie electorate, and they are boasting of having Chinese property investors lined up to purchase land along that new route.
In 2016, Councillor Richards seconded a motion before the council that related to property deals between the council and another company, Bennett Western Sydney, which is also owned by Matthew Bennett.
It is little wonder then that Sarah Richards also wants the State Government to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, an issue she has actively campaigned on. I have not yet established whether her partner, Mr Bennett, has an interest in dam building.
However, I am sure all property developers in the area are keen to see flood-prone lands opened up for fresh development and would all stand to profit.
There is something rotten in the State electorate of Hawkesbury and I intend to get to the bottom of it. I was prompted to pursue this because of Matthew Bennett’s involvement in the Liberals’ fake SMS fiasco that sought to smear me, but I now realise it is a much bigger scandal. At this time I note for the benefit of the House that I will be making a referral to the ICAC about these matters and asking it to tug even more firmly on the threads I have discovered. When you take a shot at me, Matty Ben Boy, you best not miss!
© State of New South Wales through the Parliament of New South Wales
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