Bega Valley mayor Russell Fitzpatrick hits back at CAD as Sapphire of Eden project halted

The New South Wales mayor has defended council staff after a developer labeled them “incompetent” and blamed them for its decision to put the construction of two luxury building projects on hold.

Work halted on the $100-million Sapphire of Eden project and the refurbishment of Eden’s Australasia Hotel on the Far South Coast last week amid disputes over approvals and who should pay for $4 million of associated roadworks.

As well as the contention over the roadworks, there have also been disputes about DA approval times and disagreement after council issued a stop work notice on part of the project.

The development on the site of the old Eden Fishermen’s Club was to feature a 78-room, five-star hotel, as well as four five-storey towers featuring apartments, a function centre, pool and gym.

An artist's impression of a housing development.
Core Asset Developments says plans for a luxury hotel as part of the project have been scrapped.(Supplied: Sapphire of Eden)

The refurbished Australasia Hotel was expected to open in mid-2022 and feature boutique accommodation, as well as a gin distillery, restaurants and an outdoor theatre.

John Palasty, senior adviser with developer Core Asset Development (CAD) said plans for the luxury hotel as part of the project had now been axed and residential apartments were set to go up instead.

A grand hotel in a country town.
Work has halted on the Australasia Hotel in Eden following disputes between Bega Valley Shire Council and the developer.(supplied)

Mr Palasty said the decision would be a “loss to the community.”

“We’ve scrapped the hotel now because of the incompetence of this council in processing applications,” he said.

An artist's impression of a development near a glorious waterway.
The $100m Sapphire of Eden project was planned for the site of the Eden Fishermen’s Recreation Club.(CBRE Group)

‘Blatantly ignored orders’

In statement, CAD’s managing director Mark Takes charge of Bega Valley Shire Council staff of “poorly handling the various consents” for the project.

Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick strenuously denied that claim.

“Mr Palasty has repeatedly undertaken unapproved works at the Hotel Australasia,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“And he has blatantly ignored orders to cease unapproved works.”

A middle-aged man wearing a sport coat sits in front of a window.
Russell Fitzpatrick has rejected claims council staff handled the process poorly.(ABC South East: Adriane Reardon)

Mr Fitzpatrick said following the Black Summer fires council had been swamped by development applications, which was affecting processing times.

“Our staff work extremely hard to process and support development applications,” he said.

“To attack their integrity due to multiple factors outside their control is downright appalling.”

CAD has three issues in relation to the council before the Land and Environment Court.

The ABC contacted local tourism groups for comment, but none wanted to publicly weigh in the dispute.

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