4 October 2022

Bega Valley mayor hits back as stoush with Sapphire resort developer escalates

| Katrina Condie
Join the conversation
Work is underway on The Sapphire Eden. Photos: Core Asset Development

The developer of the Sapphire of Eden resort has modified its development application and is awaiting the green light from Bega Valley Council. Photos: Core Asset Development.

A war of words has erupted between Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick and the developer of the Sapphire of Eden resort, Core Asset Development (CAD), which could stall the construction of the $100 million project.

Earlier this year, the developer of the resort, which is also refurbishing the town’s Australasia Hotel, threatened to stop work on both projects, claiming Bega Valley Council staff bungled consents, preventing works from proceeding further.

CAD has since lodged an appeal with the Land and Environment Court.

Cr Fitzpatrick said the council “has been supportive of these two developments since their inception” and “will not be pressured into making rash decisions”.

“Staff prioritised both of the original development applications, and are currently reviewing the modification for the Sapphire of Eden and the second development application for the Hotel Australasia,” he said.

The mayor said there was a proper planning process that “must be followed in assessing development applications”.

“Until a development consent is granted or a modification application approved, there are no guarantees and work cannot commence,” he added.

Cr Fitzpatrick has denied claims by the developer that staff have deliberately slowed or poorly handled the applications.

“This is categorically untrue,” he said.

“At all times, council staff have acted, and continue to act, in good faith.”

While the developer chose to set and announce opening dates for the Hotel Australasia before the second DA had been assessed, the mayor says council “did not agree to being able to meet an opening date”.

READ ALSO Max Goward awarded for 50 years spent repairing Bega Valley roads

Special adviser to CAD, Mr John Palasty, said the councillors, who had been helpful and supportive of both projects, should step in to get both projects back on track after the “bungling” by the staff members.

“CAD is proud to be leading the charge in the revitalisation of Eden’s city centre but we can not keep investing millions of dollars in both projects if we are going to be faced with continuing obstacles erected by incompetent council staff,” he added.

The $3 million Australasia Hotel renovation was expected to be completed in mid-2022 with restaurants, outdoor eateries and a heritage bar called “Rankins Bar”, two vodka and gin distilleries and an outdoor theatre.

The mayor claims Mr Palasty has “repeatedly undertaken unapproved works at the Hotel Australasia, and has blatantly ignored orders to cease unapproved works”.

“Mr Palasty agreed to a condition requiring the construction of a roundabout for the Sapphire of Eden development,” he said.

“Council staff had advised Mr Palasty they would consider a modification application to remove the roundabout condition if Core Asset Development could provide evidence that the development did not trigger the need for a roundabout. These conversations are ongoing.”

He said CAD had a valid consent to start work at the Sapphire of Eden site, yet chose not to commence.

“Instead, (they have) initiated proceedings in the Land and Environment Court for deemed refusal of the modification application,” Cr Fitzpatrick added.

“We have made it very clear to Mr Palasty and other developers looking to invest in our shire that we currently have a significant increase in development applications, coupled with a shortage of planners, which is affecting our turnaround times on all DAs – we have been open and upfront about this.”

Cr Fitzpatrick said turnaround times on DAs were outside of council’s control due to an “unprecedented increase in development in the shire” including the rebuilding of up to 467 homes lost in the Black Summer Bushfires and an influx of new residents.

“These challenges are being faced by many councils across NSW and, while we have reallocated resourcing to expand our development assessment capacity, there is a significant shortage of planners across NSW,” he said.

“While we greatly appreciate the interest in our shire by developers, we also need to balance the interests of the mums and dads, older people, and other smaller scale but still important development.

“Council has a duty to the community to maintain the integrity of the planning process and will not be pressured into making rash decisions.”

CAD managing director Mark Toma said, while the construction of both projects was expected to generate 1,043 local jobs and 80 ongoing jobs, the council staff had slowed work down through “continued delays in providing the required consents”.

“Previously agreed commitments have been thrown out by council officers and new demands made on us, while the whole process has been bogged down under the pretext of understaffing at the council,” he added.

The mayor said council staff worked extremely hard to process and support development applications, and to “attack their integrity due to multiple factors outside their control is downright appalling”.

READ ALSO Bega Valley mourns death of tireless worker for the community, Chris Nicholls

According to council, there is a valid consent for the Sapphire of Eden which the developer is able to act on to commence construction of the development.

The developer has submitted a modification application for the development which is under assessment.

There is also a valid consent for the Hotel Australasia, however the developer has also submitted a new DA for the hotel which is under assessment.

The Sapphire of Eden, at the Fisherman’s Club site on Chandos and Imlay Streets, is expected to reshape and revitalise Eden as a major regional centre in NSW.

The five-star, 78-room luxury hotel and function centre above Eden Harbour will be operated by Radisson Hotels under its specialist brand ‘Radisson Individuals’.

Designed by Altis Architecture, the hotel will feature smooth, rounded lines in the shape of whales and include a public art space, conference rooms, a wellness centre, underground parking and a roof-top infinity pool, as well as an ocean-view restaurant and bars on the top floor. It was planned for completion in 2023.

Core Asset developments is also planning a $30 million luxury beachfront eco-resort on the northern fringe of Batemans Bay. Plans include 22 residential apartments and townhouses, elevated timber villas, as well as restaurants, bars, a conference and wedding centre and a 78-room hotel.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Look, I know who I would trust, and its not a “developer’ hoping to build a hotel under the name of a international hotel chain. These people aren’t redeveloping the city centre for the locals. It will ultimately benefit others. Look at the description of the development:

“The five-star, 78-room luxury hotel and function centre above Eden Harbour will be operated by Radisson Hotels under its specialist brand ‘Radisson Individuals’.”

This will be for blow in tourists with a lot of money and profits will flow out of with the owners of the hotel. Little actual money for the locals.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.