A Chinese property developer closely connected to a mayor in southeast Queensland has secured approvals to build a $750 million resort in a koala habitat that the state government has said it will not oppose.
The approval by Logan council, which is expected to deliver massive windfalls to developer Liansheng Yue after he bought the farmland for $843,000 in 2009, was granted despite 28 of 29 public submissions received by council opposed to the project.
The approval comes just days after the chief executive and deputy chief executive of Logan council tendered their resignations, for reasons which have not been made public.
Despite major concerns from community members and some Logan councillors, Queensland Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Jackie Trad has said the government will not “call-in” the project, known as The Lakes.
Ms Trad has repeatedly refused to be interviewed when contacted by The Australian in recent months in relation to The Lakes, but in a written statement via a spokeswoman she said the government does “not support urban style development in rural of environmental areas” but would take no action.
The spokeswoman said the development, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, had “strict conditions” to ensure it operated as a “tourist facility only”.
Property experts interviewed by The Australian said they believe the project so far from key infrastructure and airports would be unviable as a tourism project and instead the developer would seek approval to build homes on the site, which are far more valuable.
The area sits in the last remaining green space between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and approval for the project from both Logan council and the Queensland Labor government is seen by many developers as a green light for widespread development of the region.
Logan mayor Luke Smith recused himself from the vote over The Lakes approval and said other councillors and staffers made their decisions independently of him.
Mr Smith has close ties to Mr Yue and his son Terry, who is also developing The Lakes.
A company owned by Mr Yue donated $63,300 to the election of Mr Smith, who was appointed mayor last March.
Earlier this month The Australian revealed Mr Smith in 2014, when a Logan councillor, arranged an inspection of a commercial building for Liansheng and Terry Yue, which the developers had planned to use as a sales office for their development.
Mr Smith allegedly attended the inspection with the developers, having earlier lined up the viewing, telling the commercial property agent he was doing so for a “Chinese associate”.
Mr Smith has not denied those allegations.
Both Liansheng and Terry Yue have repeatedly declined to comment.