Jewel outrage: Dempsey hits out at development 'racism'
BUNDABERG Mayor Jack Dempsey has taken aim at what he argues is an "anti-Chinese sentiment" in much of the commentary on the controversial Jewel project at Bargara.
Cr Dempsey was responding to a letter penned by Bargara resident Ann Conquest under the headline Chinese Developer's Magic Power in Bundaberg, which targeted the mayor regarding the Jewel development application and used phrases such as "Taoist magic".
The nine-story Jewel project is being developed by Sheng Wei, an Australian citizen who has a Chinese background.
An edited version, with the Chinese references removed, was published in today's NewsMail.
Ms Conquest also sentd her thoughts to council as well, prompting the mayor to speak out publicly.
Cr Dempsey said there was "no place for racism or prejudice in public debate".
"An offensive letter arrived at the council office this week, asking if 'Taoist magic' is behind the approval of a nine-storey development at Bargara," Cr Dempsey said.
"It was headlined 'Chinese developer's magic power in Bundaberg'.
"Sadly, much of the commentary on social media around the Jewel development has featured anti-Chinese sentiment."
The mayor said that Bundaberg was a friendly region that welcomed people from all around the world.
"To refer to an individual's ethnicity in a derogatory way is insulting and should be condemned," Cr Dempsey said.
"It should also be noted the developer is an Australian citizen who spends much of his time living on his farm in the Bundaberg region with his family.
"As a community we should encourage people to live, work and invest here.
That's the objective of council, which is committed to building Australia's best regional community."
Cr Dempsey revisited comments regarding the application and approval process, stating what had transpired during the application process was within the powers of council.
"I'm on the record as supporting the Bargara development," he said.
"The outcome was what the majority of councillors supported and the robust conditions attached to the approval were applied with the same rigour as if council had made the determination.
"If it goes ahead, I genuinely believe the project will deliver jobs, stimulate further investment and drive economic growth."
Environmental factors have been of utmost importance to Bargara residents against the development, but the mayor said he was unwavering in his dedication to protecting and promoting the region's iconic sea turtles.
"I'm convinced the conditions attached to the approval will ensure their protection," Cr Dempsey said.
"This will be the first green-star rated building in the Bundaberg region," he said.
"As I travel around the council area I hear more positive comments about the development than I do negative ones.
"Everyone is entitled to an opinion, however the naysayers dominate letters to the editor and are running an orchestrated political campaign."
This morning Ms Conquest told the NewsMail that she found it strange that the mayor was inferring there were racist undertones in her letter.
"There is nothing racist in this whatsoever," Ms Conquest said.
She said her intention was to deliver a novel approach to the issue and highlight that the developer had the mayor "spellbound".
The headline and reference to Taoist magic, as well as Harry Potter, were used to illustrate the "magical" point.
Ms Conquest argued everyone else in the community had to adhere to council rules and regulations, yet the Jewel development was outside the town plan and was against the council planners' recommendation.
"The developer was in the paper saying it's nine storeys or nothing," she said.
"Why does he have more power than the rest of us?
"It's like he has a magic wand."
She said the developer had been referred to in local media as a Chinese developer.
Earlier this week Planning Minister Cameron Dick stated he had asked his department to review the Jewel development proposal and provide him with an appropriate course of action regarding a ministerial call-in.
Mr Dick has the power to call in the application and overrule council's decision if state interests are at play.
"I have written to the minister outlining the background to this development and explaining the stringent conditions attached to Council's approval," Cr Dempsey said.
"I welcome State Government scrutiny of the planning process and the conditions, and I'm confident the minister recognises the economic significance of this project.
"Fraser Coast and Gladstone Councils already have similar-scale developments. To overrule this in the Bundaberg region would disadvantage our community when it comes to investment attraction and growth.
"I'm happy to be seen as a mayor who creates jobs. I will contest the next election on a platform that supports environmentally sustainable development and declares the Bundaberg region is open for business."
In July, a spokesman for Mr Wei told the NewsMail that the developer wanted to give back to the local community.
"Mr Wei loves the area and wants to do as much as he can," the spokesman said.
"It's not just for us, it's for other investors in the future."