An exclusive eco-resort on a large tract of some of the last remaining littoral rainforest on the northern NSW coastline was approved last week, yet the public were not informed of any details, as the decision by the Northern Rivers Planning Panel is yet to be published online.
The Echo understands amendments to reduce the number of cabins were agreed to, behind closed doors, yet the infrastructure component of the DA remains.
Named the Linnaeus Estate, the controversial DA attracted criticism from ecologists, residents and Council planning staff, who highlighted the land’s high environmental value, yet despite the fierce opposition, the panel decision was ‘unanimous’, according to one of the beneficiary developers, Brandon Saul.
Differences of opinion
Saul told The Echo, ‘I understand there will be differences of opinion on this matter, but I can assure you we want to do the very best for this site and Broken Head generally’.
The Echo asked Saul what his financial interests were, as well as what he expects to gain from this decision.
He replied, ‘I am the coordinator of the small consortium [15 or so parties] who prepared and lodged the eco-tourism DA with the overwhelming support of the owners’ group at Linnaeus. Given our interest in the property is very much in the minority, the proposal could not have progressed without the consent and support of a majority of the existing owners. To suggest otherwise is simply not factual.’
Last week, The Echo obtained an email sent from South African billionaire Tony Tabatznik to mayor Michael Lyon on October 12, 2022.
Tabatznik claims that his family company, Scarlet, ‘was the original purchaser in 1996 and remains the majority shareholder’.
Tabatznik says minority investor Steve Duchen was appointed Trustee to the Trust that Scarlet had created, and was ‘entrusted with power to make all decisions’.
Educative and environmentally responsible
He said, ‘The Trust had as its stated purpose “to be educative, environmentally responsible and to act as custodian of the site for future generations.”
‘That remains Scarlet’s overwhelming desire. Even though we would stand to gain financially if the proposed sale were to go through, we categorically oppose the actions of the Trustee in entering negotiations to renege on that stated purpose’.
He also claimed that the Linnaeus Charter had recently been removed from www.linnaeus.com.au, which states its purpose is to preserve the land’s high conservation credentials.
The charter says in part, ‘the Foundation has imposed stringent restrictions on itself for development on the estate to ensure sustainability and self-sufficiency with respect to water and wastewater management’.
The claims were put to Duchen, and he told The Echo, ‘The email from Tony Tabatznik is surprising and error ridden’.
‘Clearly as a wealthy, foreign-based entrepreneur used to getting his own way in his various endeavours, he has been frustrated by his inability to achieve and control his changed desires for Linnaeus.
‘His family company was not the purchaser in 1996, as claimed by him. The original purchaser was in fact an entity which Philip McMaster and myself owned called Broken Head Coastal Foundation Pty Limited.
‘The charter of Linnaeus is and still remains the same to this day. Nothing in Brandon’s recent [DA] approval changes that charter, and all associated with Linnaeus respect and honour it’.
‘We have recently dedicated over 50 hectares (nearly half of the property) to a Conservation Agreement in perpetuity with NSW Biodiversity Trust. Our water and wastewater infrastructure is gold standard and is and has always been fully aligned to our stated objectives and charter.
‘Full and proper process has always been followed throughout the Linnaeus development, and I assure you that such practice will continue in the future’, said Duchen.