THE Awabakal are working on a massive property deal that would use a Warners Bay subdivision to bankroll restoration of the landmark former Newcastle post office.
News of the deal emerged after the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council dropped legal action against state government plans to replace the Awabakal board with an administrator.
As the Newcastle Herald has reported, an investigation into the sacking of a former Awabakal chief executive led NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Leslie Williams to consider appointing an administrator.
At the same time, Awabakal board member and former deputy chairman Richard Green had taken a leading role in developing plans for the post office, which the land council obtained in 2014 after a state land rights claim.
Having previously spoken of “Chinese” interest in the building, Mr Green went public on Friday with a joint venture he had worked up with a Sydney company, Advantage Property Experts Syndications Pty Ltd, led by 31-year-old Rockdale man Hussein Faraj.
Mr Faraj said on Friday that his company was “amalgamating sites in Kings Cross and Darlinghurst” and had “money” coming from China and the Middle East.
“Our investors want to work with indigenous Australians to work with them so that their communities receive the benefit,” Mr Faraj said. “We help them to develop what they have, do the master planning and the development applications and then we take a small proportion out of the profits.”
Mr Faraj said all of the Awabakal’s land holdings would have gone into the joint venture, including land at Warners Bay. There was enough property to develop 450 housing sites, with the profits helping to restore the post office. The deal would put “$30 million to $50 million” into the pockets of the Awabakal.
Despite Mr Faraj’s optimism, Mr Green acknowledged the Awabakal board was yet to approve the deal.
“I am disappointed that the board, in its inability to agree and move on united, surrendered its fight for self governance,” Mr Green said. He said the deal would provide new and restored housing for Awabakal members. The post office would become a convention centre celebrating Aboriginal culture and offering conference facilities, dining and cafes.
“Three times the community meeting held to vote on these was adjourned because of disunity,” Mr Green said.
A spokesperson for Ms Williams said she would consider the investigator’s report, now that the legal challenge was over. Awabakal chair Theresa Towers said the land council would continue “day to day operations assisting its members”.
- See the plans here