Revelations the Chinese backers of a mega-development on Tasmania’s idyllic East Coast celebrated its progress three days before a Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council (GSBC) meeting approved a request to change the planning scheme raises serious questions about the processes of the Council. It has also been revealed, that despite its massive scale, councilors only had knowledge of the request four days before the meeting.

The planning scheme change is required to rezone land from agriculture to a zoning which will allow the development of a ‘culture art town’ that includes hotel, apartments, golf courses, retail and restaurants and a palliative care facility. Public submissions on the planning scheme change close today at 5 pm.

“How is it that the Chinese backers of what appears to be a whole new town adjacent to Swansea were celebrating the progress of their proposal just a day after Councilors were informed of the required zoning change request and three days before it was approved?” asked Sophie Underwood, spokesperson for the Freycinet Action Network.

“Chinese media reported on the celebrations and the signing of a ‘cooperation agreement’ between companies behind the development of the ‘cultural and arts town of Cambria’.”

(See copy of Chinese media below)

The reporting states:

‘Both parties agreed that the cultural and arts town of Cambria Tasmania, can be used as a featured town that integrates cultural tourism, leisure, and old-age care.’

“Tasmania is gifting its prime assets and future to international companies for private, commercial gain and appears to be bending the rules along the way,” said Ms Underwood.

“What exactly did the companies in China know before the people of Tasmania and what indications did the GSBC give to these developers ahead of the people of their own municipality?”

This also raises broader issues around foreign ownership in Tasmania.

The Cambria proposal has been put forward by Melbourne group Cambria Green Agriculture and Tourism Management Pty Ltd, which represents an international investor syndicate.

It appears that Cambria Green Agriculture and Tourism Management Pty Ltd does not own any of the land.

Instead it appears that Cambria Green Agriculture and Tourism Management Pty Ltd is representing two individuals and seven other companies that are all listed as the owners.

Only one of these seven companies (Cambria Green Agricultural Development Ltd) is registered in Australia and this Australian registered company owns less than 3.6% of the total land area being proposed for the development. The remaining companies appear to be Chinese and Hong Kong in origin.

“This raises many questions that the Tasmanian community needs answers to: how much land is foreign owned in Tasmania across all land types (including % of freehold versus leasehold) and how many of our local businesses (and business types) are being sold into foreign hands?”

The only easily accessible information about foreign ownership in Tasmania is for agricultural land.

“Tasmania has a much higher percentage of foreign interests in agricultural land than any other state in Australia, except for the Northern Territory.”

Based on the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land 2016-17 data, 24.3 % of all agricultural land in Tasmania is foreign owned. The only other state that has a similar percentage is Northern Territory, where 25.6% of all agricultural land is foreign owned. The next highest is Western Australia, with 16.7%.

Another important statistics is that close to 80 per cent of foreign held agricultural land in Australia is on a leasehold basis; yet, in Tasmania 87 per cent of agricultural land is on freehold basis. Many other countries around the world do not allow foreign entities to acquire freehold land.

“The people of Tasmania need to know what is foreign owned, so that we can at least have a broad community discussion around what is an appropriate level of foreign ownership in Tasmania”.

Prior to the 24 April 2018 GSBC meeting, on the 21 April 2018, it was reported in Chinese media, that: