Potential conflict of interest examined
WYONG’S controversial $500 million China Theme Park project is being promoted on a popular Chinese social media platform as an opportunity for investors to obtain an Australian visa ‘‘for your whole family’’, after making a $1million investment.
The promotion, circulated to an unknown number of WeChat subscribers, states investors will ‘‘get $1million investment back after 4 years’’ and ‘‘get permanent residency straight away’’ in Australia by investing $1million in the Warnervale theme park’s first project, the Ganen thanksgiving temple.
The promotion, with film, describes Australia as ‘‘one of the best countries to immigrate your whole family through investment, especially when the real estate market is booming’’, because Canada had ‘‘cancelled its investment immigration policy’’.
It carries the NSW government Planning and Environment logo.
In June last year, Canada legislated to terminate its Immigrant Investor Program and federal Entrepreneur Program, and now requires overseas investors to secure Canadian venture capital fund involvement for economic migration applications.
The WeChat promotion states that an Australian ‘‘sub-class 132 visa’’ is available to investors who ‘‘start a business or participate in management of a business after arriving in Australia’’.
The Australian Department of Immigration website describes the ‘‘Business Talent (Permanent) visa (subclass 132)’’ as ‘‘a permanent residence visa for people who are nominated by an Australian state or territory government agency’’.
Applicants for the visa’s venture capital entrepreneur stream ‘‘must have obtained at least $1million in venture capital funding to start the commercialisation and development of a high value business idea in Australia’’, the website said.
The WeChat promotion states the ‘‘China Theme Park’’ will evaluate an investor’s application after contracts are signed, organise a two-week visit to Australia, submit an application proposal to the Australian Department of Immigration, and ‘‘apply assurance of support/guarantee from state government’’.
The promotion includes a China-based phone number for Australia China Theme Park.
Calls to the number are answered with a message in English and Chinese identifying the Australia China Theme Park, but are then disconnected.
The promotion, translated for the Newcastle Herald, states the process takes between six and nine months, with NSW identified as ‘‘the first choice (best place) for Chinese enterprises (businessmen) to invest in Australia’’.
In late May, the WeChat subscribers, in what appears to be a private group, were advised of ‘‘Good news!’’ because the theme park had received ‘‘formal approval from the highest level of Australian government on May 25’’, and the project ‘‘will be carried out smoothly’’.
On May 25, the NSW Department of Planning issued a gateway determination for the theme park, but severely restricted Wyong council’s rezoning and increased height plans for the site, and challenged job figures.
Ganen Temple Pty Ltd was registered on January 7, 2014, with 600,000 unpaid shares, a week before Wyong council announced a proposed $80million thanksgiving temple project for Warnervale had been launched in China.
Ganen Temple Pty Ltd is owned by Australia China Theme Park Pty Ltd, whose chief executive is Bruce Zhong.
Mr Zhong is a director of both companies.
The registered business address of Ganen Temple Pty Ltd is 31 Boyce Avenue at Wyong, the site of the former Strathavon resort.
Wyong MP David Harris said the WeChat promotion ‘‘reinforces the reason why this company needs to be looked at very carefully’’.
‘‘It was clear from the beginning that they had no experience or history of delivering a project of this type or size.
‘‘The further this goes along, the more questions are needing to be answered.’’
Mr Zhong did not respond to a number of messages left on his mobile phone and a landline number.
A Wyong council spokeswoman said the council’s due diligence when negotiating the $10million ‘‘sale’’ of Warnervale land to Australia China Theme Park Pty Ltd – which it was later forced to concede comprised a $100,000payment, which both sides could walk away from – involved checking it was a registered company and ‘‘inquiries about the shareholders of that company’’.
The council was not required, as part of the rezoning application process, to investigate how a future developer would fund a development, the spokeswoman said.