Billionaire faces off with NSW Premier over Kings Forest
THE Tweed's richest developer has challenged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to improve the state's planning department or face the consequences of a suffering region.
Leda Holdings executive chairman Bob Ell, one of Australia's richest men, aired his frustration on Monday as the Premier met business owners at a Tweed Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.
The usually elusive billionaire, whose company is behind the massive proposed estates of Cobaki and Kings Forest, said he was frustrated with the NSW Government's Planning Department.
"The Planning Department through that period has gone through many changes and we've spent many millions (of dollars) trying to bring these projects forward to help the people of the Tweed with housing,” Mr Ell said.
"We haven't been able to put one house on the market. We're offering this region $5 billion.
"All we ask is to find one single person which is paid to help with the approval process.”
Mr Ell said his company had spent $2.5 billion on the two projects and gone through an "exhaustive” council, state and federal approval process to appease environmental concerns but he was still facing planning delays.
"Now we have to merge these three approvals together to bring our own document which would finally be freed up after nine months and another million dollars in fees,” he said.
"We're not asking the state or council for a single cent or dollar. When is this going to stop and when is the state going to commit to planning?”
Ms Berejiklian said she welcomed Mr Ell's input.
"I'm as keen as anybody to make sure that people, whether they're proposing new developments or proposing other things for the department of planning, have certainty,” she said.
"Certainty and quick responses is important no matter what you're doing.”
Others took the opportunity to tell the premier how important it was to ensure the environment was taken into account when developing the Tweed.
"We need business to go in (this region) not to over-develop the place but to give someone a proper lifestyle,” property developer David Whitbourn of Whitbourn Holdings said.
Ms Berejiklian said with the number of projects approved for the Tweed, including the $500 million new hospital, it was important the region was sustainable.
"It's finding the right balance,” she said.
"If communities grow the proper way, it means you are able to protect all the attributes you have.”
The Premier was also due to meet flood victims in Murwillumbah on Monday.