Billionaire Phillip Dong Fang Lee again runs foul of regulators on his pristine bushland property

Fame Cove … wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it were a National Park?

IS this ‘the sort of Significant Investment Visa’ that Australia needs?

IT is hard not to come to the conclusion that disrespect, arrogance and greed are the dominant characteristics being inflicted upon the community.

Related Article:   North coast administrator swaps council for job with Chinese property developer

“Mr Lee and Ms Shi and their companies have accumulated more than $47 million of rural and bushland property in the Port Stephens area covering more than 5000 hectares since 2006, including a pine plantation that is currently subject to investigation by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.”

AND … “Billionaire Phillip Dong Fang Lee in Court as Council demands Government step in”

The 400-hectare property at Fame Cove owned in a company name by Phillip Dong Fang Lee and Xiaobei Shi.

Billionaire Phillip Dong Fang Lee again runs foul of regulators on his pristine bushland property


AUG 30, 2019


Chinese billionaire property developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee and his wife Xiaobei Shi should be best known among Sydneysiders for their palatial purchase of a Point Piper home Mandalay, given it cost $40 million.

*But it is their company-owned property on the state’s North Coast that garners the most attention – for repeated environmental damage.

The company has run foul of government regulators for the third time since the 400 hectares of pristine bushland near Port Stephens was bought in 2006 for $8.8 million, last week incurring fines totalling $88,000 and an additional $20,000 in costs, and raising concerns among locals about what grand plans are in store for a property that was once offered to the state government as a national park.

The latest incident involves four offences brought by the Natural Resources Access Regulator, responsible for water law enforcement in NSW, related to the removal of vegetation and deposited rock and turf over an area of 4240 square metres of waterfront land without approval on Nanabah Creek, which feeds into the protected sanctuary at Fame Cove.

A spokesman for the regulator  said the offences were brought under the Water Management Act, adding “the removal of the vegetation … is likely to have decreased the oxygen exchange between the open water and underlying sediments causing oxygen deprivation for any creatures living within those sediments.”

Despite a guilty plea, magistrate Brett Shields last Thursday slugged the company with the maximum penalty, stressing that it was important that the work of the regulator be taken seriously and therefore appropriate sanctions needed to be applied.

Despite the finding being made against Mr Lee’s company (and not himself personally), Mr Lee’s consultant Glenn Handford said: “Mr Lee is disappointed and realises he should have got a controlled permit, but the offence took place about four or five years ago.”

The Fame Cove property was first subject to fines of almost $200,000 in 2009 when a dam wall failed during excavation work, and in 2014 there was a fine of $8000 after a section of bushland was cleared and the felled trees left in the marine sanctuary.

Clearing of trees in October 2015 which blocked the creek (Nanabah Creek) which runs into Fame Cove. Developer used this blocked creek to then run heavy machinery across the waterway.  Nanabah Creek is a Marine Sanctuary at the salt water part which is about 300 metres downstream from this blockage.  Developer had a stop work order imposed by DPI, then cleaned the creek up. They also got a fine from council at that time managed by Greg Pevitt. Photo credit: Ross Griffiths
Cleared trees dumped in Nanabah Creek, which feeds into Fame Cove, resulted in an $8000 fine in 2014. Photo: Ross Griffiths

Mr Handford was until Christmas 2017 the general manager at MidCoast Council, where he was responsible for enforcing land remediation efforts on the property. 

It wasn’t the first time Mr Lee has hired from the ranks of former employees of council. Council’s former investigations and prosecutions coordinator Greg Pevitt resigned in early 2016 and soon after went to work as an adviser for Mr Lee’s company interests. Mr Lee’s current court-ordered rehabilitation of bushland by the Land and Environment Court is being overseen by strategic planner Stuart Murray, who also worked at Great Lakes Council in the mid-1990s.

“There’s a real sense of frustration among locals because this is a frequent offender that owns multiple properties in the area and has multiple cases of environmental damage to a significant environmental area,” said local Labor MP Kate Washington.

Mr Lee, a road construction and urban developer from China’s Fujian province, had planned to build an eco-resort on the property, but those plans were later abandoned after MidCoast Council slapped stop-work and clean-up orders on the property amid concerns about threatened species, unauthorised road building and land clearing.

“Mr Lee has decided not to pursue any intense development anymore, and his goal is to construct four houses, each on a 100 hectare lot, and  keep them all for his personal use,” Mr Handford said.

Those plans are unlikely to assuage the concerns of locals, according to Fame Cove Residents Association member Len Yearsley.

“In more than 10 years ownership nothing has come to fruition and nothing built, but a collection of so many separate DAs means the state government need not get involved if they’re in separate small units of less than $10 million each, but the cumulative effect of so many DAs is not considered because there’s no master plan for the site,” Mr Yearsey said.

Fame Cove, a renowned boating haven, was hoped to become national park when Boral offered it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the late 1990s for $1.1 million, but it was instead sold into private hands.

Companies owned by Mr Lee and Ms Shi have accumulated more than $47 million of rural and bushland property in the Port Stephens area covering more than 5000 hectares, including a pine plantation that is currently subject to investigation by the NSW Environment Protection Authority after an unauthorised canal of up to 16 kilometres long was discovered in late 2017.


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