THE Shaolin Foundation has paid the outstanding money owed to buy the Comberton Grange property at Falls Creek for the proposed $380 million Shaolin Temple Complex but has again not ruled out pursuing the 300-lot housing development at the site.
Abbot Shi Yongxin presented a bank cheque to Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash on Monday afternoon for $4,162,723.99 to finalise the mortgage payments.
And while there was much rejoicing about the payment, including the insistence it would be the “Temple of Boom” for the area, foundation representative Patrick Pang said the organisation would continue to push for the residential precinct of 300 houses despite its rejection by the Planning Assessment Commission in September last year.
“PAC’s decision is not set in concrete,” Mr Pang said after the official presentation at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre.
He said the residences were necessary for the long-term viability of the proposed Shaolin Temple Complex.
“Shaolin is not a business, it is not a developer. It carries out many charitable projects,” he said.
“Nothing is impossible.
“It may be a question of us coming back and negotiating.
“This whole project can only enrich us and the local community.
“Having such a complex in the Shoalhaven is a gateway to China – business and tourism will come here because of the temple.”
With the project confronted many planning issues, the Abbot admitted at times there were thoughts of walking away.
“But due to the support of the mayor, the former mayor [Greg Watson] and Shoalhaven Council we kept going,” he said through interpreter Samuel Li, of Longton Legal.
He described the idea of coming to the Shoalhaven as “destiny”.
“You could say it was the location. You could say it was the people but the most important fact was meeting the right people, and the generosity in us being offered this parcel of land,” he said.
“It was destiny.”
He said he wished work could be started as soon as possible and that provisions had been made to ensure local people would be employed on the project, which would only benefit the wider community.
Mr Pang, however, was more circumspect, saying a start to work may still be years off.
“Under the PAC approval we still have to do more studies, which our consultants think are excessive, so as to when we will finalise our design and lodge a final development application I can’t say,” he said.
“But we would like to get started, we may start on constructing the access road.
“There is a lot of infrastructure needed and we have to pay for that.
“We play by the rules.”
Mr Pang said he would like to move on and get on with his life but the Abbot wanted him to stay involved in the project.
Cr Gash said she was extremely humbled and honoured by the Abbot making the trip from China to personally hand over the funds.
“It is a sign of his commitment to the project that the Abbot would travel all the way to Australia to personally hand over the final bank cheque for the sale of land at Comberton Grange,” Cr Gash said.
“The finalisation of the outstanding payments is extremely exciting and will ensure that the project can now move on to the next stage.
“I want to reiterate that I never doubted the Abbot or the Shaolin Temple Foundation’s commitment to this project and was sure that they would follow through on their word.
“I would encourage our community and the media to put any negative comments behind us and to embrace the opportunities this project may bring to the region.
“We all need to work together towards generating further job opportunities for local residents particularly within the youth and Aboriginal areas.”
She said once completed, the temple was expected to attract upwards of 300,000 overseas visitors per year while providing ongoing economic stimulus into the local economy.