Worries aired over council-Buddhist group agreement

ABC, November 18, 2005

Illawara, NSW (Australia) -- Two Shoalhaven councillors have raised concerns about a draft agreement between Shoalhaven Council and a Chinese Buddhist order.

The order hopes to buy land and build a convention centre in the Shoalhaven, with facilities for more than 1,500 people and a 500-bed hotel.

Cr Gareth Ward says there is concern the council will give the land to the Buddhist order for a peppercorn lease of $1 a year.

And Cr Paul Green says there should be consultation with other councillors and the community before the agreement is signed.

"We've got a memorandum of understanding that's going to be undertaken, and we haven't seen any of the points of this memorandum of understanding, there's no community consultation and given the fact of the scale of this development, it's obviously going to be a large scale development, it has a huge potential of changing the culture shift of the Shoalhaven and I believe the community should be consulted in that," he said.

Shoalhaven Mayor Greg Watson says the agreement is currently only in its draft stage.

He says councillors will have a chance to view the agreement before he takes it to China.

"They were told at the last council meeting, and this is another little bit of mischief that they've been going on with, they were told at the last council meeting that they would be shown the memorandum of understanding before it was signed," he said.