Construction of RM1.1bil Buddhist retreat and kung fu school to start soon

Xinhua, March 27, 2015

SYDNEY, Australia -- After more than 1,500 years in existence, Dengfeng’s revered Shaolin Temple is to soon start building its first international outpost in Australia.

The renowned Buddhist retreat and kung fu school have completed eight years of complex negotiations with local governments in New South Wales to establish a site for the new temple.

The A$380mil (RM1.1bil) resort will be constructed in the pristine wilderness of Comberton Grange in Jervis Bay, 200km south of Sydney.

It will be centred on more than 2,000ha of purchased forest land which China’s Shaolin Temple, currently led by abbot Shi Yongxin, paid A$5mil (RM14.5mil) for.

It will truly be a wilderness retreat with a glorious marine national park a few kilometres away.

The temple site resides in the Shoalhaven Shire, named after a majestic river which flows through the lush rural area.

The temple is fully supported by mayor Joanna Gash, who spoke to Xinhua at her office.

“Eight years ago the abbot came to the Shoalhaven,” she said.

“He was very taken with the spirituality of the land, the people here, the location and he had good visions as to what he could build here. It has taken eight years to come to fruition.

“His plan is certainly for a temple, a Shaolin temple, the first Shaolin temple to be built in Australia outside of China. It will have a kung fu academy, it will have a health and wellness centre and it will also have a hotel.

In a region of high unemployment, the economic benefits will be major. It is expected around 1,000 jobs will be available for the construction of the project alone.

“Certainly, over and above the initial A$380mil development costs, the estimates are around A$65mil (RM188.5mil) per annum into the local economy, which is huge,” said Steve Lawson, the local tourism chief.

Tourism is the second biggest money earner in the Shoalhaven Shire and employs 6,500 people. It is an area where lush mountains meet the sea across fields filled with cows, and many people live there for its beauty, even if work is hard to find.

The temple resort will offer employment opportunities which fit into the lifestyle of the local community which is already geared to welcome tourists.

Besides extensive bushwalking tracks, Jervis Bay has much more to offer. It is renowned for its majestic marine beauty, crystal clear waters and beauty. It is a scuba diving haven as well.

“It is one of Australia’s most pristine natural icons,” said another tourism representative Catherine Shields.

“It is a world-famous heritage marine park. It has some the whitest sands in the world, some of the cleanest water and some of the most beautiful scenery. There’s also wonderful pods of dolphins.”

There have been local objections to the temple, as usual when something big and new is planned for small communities which resist change. The concerns were more about the development process than the actual project, but Gash said the end result had been sound.

“There have been many millions of dollars going into the planning exercise for this project before we could even put a shovel into the ground. They have certainly done their homework, and it has taken years of planning.”

That first shovel will soon begin digging to see a new era created in the 1,500-year-old history of China’s Shaolin Temple. And it will spread and share culture between two countries which have become firm friends.