QUES­TIONS ASKED

Ratepay­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion refers deputy mayor to CCC

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion is about to be called into Whit­sun­day affairs once again over the sale of coun­cil land at Water­son Way.

Mem­bers of the Whit­sun­day Ratepay­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion are ask­ing the cor­rup­tion watch­dog to in­ves­ti­gate deputy mayor An­drew Will­cox’s con­duct sur­round­ing the pro­posed Chi- na­town site. They’re al­leg­ing that be­fore us­ing his cast­ing vote to ter­mi­nate the sale, Cr Will­cox tried to se­cure the land for “a friend” – some­thing he em­phat­i­cally de­nies.

THE WRA ex­ec­u­tive team was crit­i­cal of Cr Will­cox’s de­ci­sion not to al­low a last ex­ten­sion to Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town In­vest­ment Pty Ltd at a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing on Fe­bru­ary 3.

But now they’ve gone one step fur­ther, say­ing he’d al­ready found an­other buyer and claim­ing that is why, on Fe­bru­ary 24, he tried to have the land val­ued again.

Cr Will­cox said this was “the sil­li­est al­le­ga­tion I’ve ever heard”.

“And that’s in­ter­est­ing isn’t it, be­cause two days be­fore that they’d put out a re­lease say­ing it was ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous (for me) to knock it (Chi­na­town) on the head be­cause there were no other buy­ers around,” he said.

None­the­less WRA sec­re­tary Tony Moscato also ques­tioned the word­ing of Cr Will- cox’s mo­tion, ask­ing coun­cil to seek two new in­de­pen­dent val­u­a­tions of the land and sell it with a re­serve price of the lower of th­ese.

As re­ported in the Whit­sun­day Times last week, the mo­tion lapsed for want of a sec­on­der but Mr Moscato said had it been suc­cess­ful, ratepay­ers could have been fur­ther out of pocket; rais­ing con­cerns that Cr Will­cox was “help­ing a friend to ac­quire the land for a pit­tance”.

Cr Will­cox how­ever said he sim­ply re­verted to the word­ing of the orig­i­nal mo­tion used when 45-71 Water­son Way was first se­lected for sale.

“And that’s what you do in busi­ness. If the deal falls over, you go back to the orig­i­nal in­tent and start again,” he said.

Cr Will­cox also ad­dressed why coun­cil had pre­vi­ously re­solved to ac­cept the lower of the val­u­a­tions, say­ing this was “be­cause we were putting con­di­tions on it to stim­u­late de­vel­op­ment”.

Mr Moscato, WRA pres­i­dent David Gill­man and trea­surer Ross Plow­man said this wasn’t good enough and that, in the ab­sence of mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney, it was Cr Will­cox’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to bet­ter lead the pro­ject team.

Mean­while the de­vel­oper, Peter Ray­mond Wang, is still in limbo about where his Chi­na­town pro­ject sits.

For­mer state deputy premier Jim El­der said he met with Mr Wang this week in his ca­pac­ity as cur­rent deputy chair of Whit­sun­days Mar­ket­ing and De­vel­op­ment Lim­ited (WMDL) “to see if there was an op­por­tu­nity to re-en­gage on his pro­ject, to en­deav­our to help him un­der­stand the cur­rent political sit­u­a­tion and to keep him in a pos­i­tive frame of mind in terms of in­vest­ing in this re­gion”.

“It would be an un­der­state­ment to say he feels be­trayed by coun­cil­lors he be­lieved sup­ported his pro­ject,” Mr El­der said.

“He said th­ese coun­cil­lors had been to his house, en­joyed his hos­pi­tal­ity and spoke openly about how good his pro­ject would be for the Whit­sun­days, then they turn around, un­der­mine it and vote to can­cel the con­tract.”

Mr El­der said in his opin­ion Mr Wang was still very com­mit­ted to the Whit­sun­days and had al­ready spo­ken to his le­gal team about preserving his rights in the de­vel­op­ment of a Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town.

“And as some­one who has spent a decade en­cour­ag­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ment in this re­gion... it is dis­ap­point­ing (to me) that it now comes down to a le­gal ar­gu­ment over what should have been a $300 mil­lion boost to the re­gion,” he said.

IRATE: WRA ex­ec­u­tives David Gill­man, Tony Moscato and Ross Plow­man at the Water­son Way site.

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