FROM the comments ….
‘ … If dozens of people can be evicted from their homes for new roads and train lines then it shouldn’t be a problem to fix this appalling situation.’
Through Compulsory Acquisition? Extend the reserve to include Windermere for public recreation …
AND why hasn’t Guo joined the ranks of Huang Xiangmo to lose his ‘Permanent Residency” … ?
‘Chinese Gatsby’ billionaire built bar in Hunters Hill Aboriginal rock cave
November 16, 2019
When Chinese billionaire Kuizhang ‘Sam’ Guo bought a Hunters Hill mansion for $11.4 million in 2014, it didn’t take long for him to make a splash in the neighbourhood.
Neighbour, the then treasurer Joe Hockey, asked the Foreign Investment Review Board to review how a foreigner came to buy an established property.
And the “Chinese Gatsby” of Hunters Hill became renowned for throwing lavish parties attended by a coterie of Sydney and Shenzhen socialites.
*But now The Sydney Morning Herald can reveal the property developer also began clearing bush land on a neighbouring public reserve, spray painted over Indigenous artwork and constructed a structure “seven times” the size of a jetty in the Lane Cove River.
*To top it off, he built a bar inside a heritage-listed Aboriginal rock cave.
*The “illegal” works sparked a lengthy battle in the Land and Environment Court with Hunters Hill Council, beginning in 2016, after it discovered they had been carried out without any approvals on land Mr Guo did not own.
*The council finally succeeded this year in having the works demolished, the reserve rehabilitated and costs recouped from Mr Gou, who reportedly made his fortune in China in his early 30s by transforming military bunkers into shopping malls.
*But despite his busy building program at the property, it appears Mr Guo never built the one structure he was required to in order to be allowed to buy the property in the first place.
“The number of breaches he had, it was just unbelievable,” a council source told the Herald. “He just thought he could do anything he wanted.”
The saga dates back to July 2014 when Mr Guo purchased “Windermere”, a historic estate on Ernest Street, even though foreign buyers are generally restricted to buying only new homes.
CAAN: Cough … cough … they demolish Heritage homes for a ‘new home’! And once gaining a ‘Permanent Resident Visa’ …. no problem! That is how leaky our legislation ….!
And the ‘Guardian Visa’ allows both the Guardian and a child as young as 6 to buy one established home each or several ‘new homes’
SEARCH CAAN WEBSITE TO FIND MORE!
*After Mr Hockey’s referral to the FIRB, Mr Guo’s lawyer said her client was granted approval to buy Windermere on the condition he “contribute to housing stock” by carrying out an approved 2013 development application to build a guest house on the property.
*At the time Mr Hockey slammed the deal – to be undertaken within two years of the purchase date – as “spurious” and “ridiculous”.
*By July 2015, Mr Guo had lodged revised plans for the guest house, but an advisory panel found they were “substantially” different to those approved and would have “excessive and adverse” impacts on Windermere.
Even though he was advised of the feedback, in October 2015 Mr Guo told the ABC construction of the guest house would begin “very soon”.
Last week Hunters Hill Council confirmed no construction certificate for any kind of building work had been issued since Mr Guo purchased the property.
When asked about the matter, a FIRB spokesperson said it could not comment on specific cases.
*The Land and Environment Court heard shortly after purchasing Windermere, Mr Guo unsuccessfully applied to lease part of the neighbouring parkland, Ferdinand Street Reserve, Crown land owned by the NSW government.
*Soon neighbours started complaining Mr Guo was clearing vegetation.
Timber flooring and a bar for serving drinks were bolted to the inside of an Aboriginal rock cave in the reserve, damaging parts of the walls, the court heard.
The overhang was also “strewn” with Mr Guo’s belongings, including furniture, statues and bric-a-brac.
An expert in Aboriginal heritage told the court the cave contained “extensive and relatively well preserved” red-painted Aboriginal artwork and the disturbed remains of an occupation deposit.
“I have not seen a more visually spectacular painted art site in the Sydney inner suburbs,” Mary Dallas said, adding that while the art had not been “grossly damaged” it was “critical” no further works occurred.
Ms Dallas was most concerned at the painting of a white arrow and a black line over parts of the artwork and a large oriental brazier placed in the middle of the cave, which had the potential to cause damage via humidity and smoke.
Outside, floodlights had been installed, exotic species planted and a small kitchen was discharging wastewater directly into the Lane Cove River, the court heard.
By the water, a structure about “seven times the size of a typical private jetty” had been built, according to Mark Adamson, a town planning expert engaged by council.
He said the structure would be better categorised as a “private landing facility” – for allowing passengers to disembark from vessels – than a jetty.
*“The works in their entirety have been undertaken without owner’s consent on Crown land,” Mr Adamson told the court, adding that the character of the Aboriginal rock cave had been “altered dramatically”.
*He argued that even if Mr Guo had tried to go through the formal channels, there was “no circumstance” under which the works would have been approved.
To do so would be to “erode public and professional faith in the planning system” and “satisfy private desires over the public interest,” Mr Adamson warned.
An expert in bush land ecology told the court the works had resulted in the removal of an endangered species of tree and a loss of habitat for native wildlife in a regionally significant corridor.
Council officers visited the site on multiple occasions, but in each instance were unable to locate Mr Guo, instead finding a worker and a female occupant who didn’t speak English.
In one instance a council officer spoke to Mr Guo’s interpreter, who asked: “Can Mr Sam buy the land?”
“No. It is owned by the State Government in perpetuity forever,” they responded.
In November 2016, a deal was brokered in court, with Mr Guo agreeing he would cease his illegal works and plan to demolish what had been built and rehabilitate the reserve.
Mr Guo failed to comply with the court orders, according to Hunters Hill Council documents from 2017.
“Mr Guo in breach of orders … warning letters sent to Guo seeking undertaking to cease works and also putting him on notice re contempt of court,” they said.
The matter was finally resolved this year in May, with the court orders complied with and council receiving $50,000 in costs. Mr Guo was “very difficult/impossible to contact/likely in China”, council’s lawyers said.
When the Herald door-knocked the home this week, there was no sign of Mr Guo, and a woman answered the door who said she didn’t speak English. Mr Guo’s lawyers also failed to respond to a request for comment.
Mr Guo has had similar run-ins with authorities overseas, with a Shenzhen court in 2010 ordering he demolish an artificial floating island created as his own personal resort.
Mr Guo listed Windermere for sale last October with hopes of $18 million but it was taken off the market in May, after failing to sell with a revised guide of $16 million.
Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.