THE Shaolin Abbot, Shi Yongxin made a flying visit to the Shoalhaven on Wednesday and reaffirmed his commitment to a Shaolin Temple at Falls Creek, albeit on a much smaller scale.
It is planned to submit a development application for the proposal with Shoalhaven City Council within six months.
The Abbot and a number of Chinese supporters and backers travelling with him, met with Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley and council staff to discuss the new proposal for the Comberton Grange property on the banks of Currambene Creek at Falls Creek.
Former councillor John Willmott facilitated the meeting which has seen a scaling back of the previously mooted $360 million project.
The golf course and residential precincts, featuring 300 dwellings, rejected by the Planning Assessment Commission, are gone with the Abbot focusing more on the heart of the Shaolin movement, meditation, well-being and Kung Fu.
The meeting was told the plans were now much more “humble” and “far removed” from the previous “Hollywood style” proposal.
Instead, it is planned to start with stage one of the project, a nursery on the scale of the Eurobodalla Botanical Gardens in Batemans Bay.
The nursery will allow monks and volunteers to harvest seeds from the site and propagate them.
It is envisaged the nursery would also be able to sell local native plants to the public.
It is planned to revegetate creek lines and clear the disused pine forest, removing the pine needles which are degrading the soils.
Accommodation for up to 10 monks with a kitchen and dining hall will be built.
The plan is for the buildings to nestle into the landscape, much different to the previous proposal with its scale and size which would have certainly stood out.
It is proposed to build 18 tourist cabins, again designed to be part of the environment.
The Kung Fu Academy continues to play a major role in the proposal, as will a Shaolin Zen meditation temple, a Shaolin zen theme park, meditation spaces, a Zen tea valley, Shaolin house, a bonesetting house, Zen sleeping house and outdoor demonstration places.
Plans are much more “humble” and “far removed” from the previous “Hollywood style” proposal.
The proposal plans to use earthly materials and “touch the earth lightly” and buildings designed to be within nature, not competing.
Inspiration will be taken from work designed by Philip Cox and Glenn Murcutt.
The site would be pedestrian, not vehicle reliant, with removed car parking facilities.
It is planned some of the buildings could be of a rammed earth construction, using sandstone and dolerite from the quarry on the property, while some of the harvested timber from the pine forest could also be utilised during construction.
The meeting heard the proposals would be on the same footprint as the previous proposal as approved by the planning commission.
Through translator Vinh Trang, the Abbott said he wanted to move forward with the project.
“The land is ours and after a few years of delay, which we are sorry for, we are now ready to move forward,” he said.
“We place a high value on the environment and trying to keep the synergy of the environment to move forward.
The original project was very ambitious and caused lots of stir in the Shoalhaven. The mindset now is different and I believe the community will be willing to get behind the new thinking brought to table.Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley.
“This is a very beautiful city as we know and we want to try and make it better.”
He said the plan was to start small but grow in time, if and when, required.
“It could be a good tourist attraction for the area,” he said.
Although there was still a lot of work to get the project off the ground, including issues such as sensitive environmental areas and problems over access, it is hope a development application would be lodged with council within the next six months.
The Abbott also issued an invitation for Mayor Findley to visit the Shaolin Temple in China.
Mayor Findley said she was honoured to meet the Abbot and his guests from around China who came together to show a seriousness to progress the project.
“The original project was very ambitious and caused lots of stir in the Shoalhaven,” Cr Findley said.
“The mindset now is different and I believe the community will be willing to get behind the new thinking brought to table.
“I spoke to the Abbot about the local Aboriginal people and their connection to the land and how important it is to them, making strong beginnings and then progress those issues in a sensitive way.
“It is a pleasing place to be in and it is nice to meet and express all points of view on issues.”
She said the project has the potential to bring tourists and growth to the city.
“The Shoalhaven is experiencing a great connection already with China through tourism,” she said.
“Many inbound tourists to Jervis Bay come from China.
“Many come for a day and leave. Many locals are not aware that we have quite a large contingent of Chinese nationals visiting already.
“The accommodation side, as the project grows, will allow for people connected to the Shaolin movement to stay and enjoy the city and connect with the wellness opportunities the Abbot has identified in the Shoalhaven - the healthy lifestyle of clean air, good bushlands, beautiful seas and not wanting to disrupt that too much but to connect spiritually as well as in a healthy way.
“It is heartening to see the cabins were part of the project ongoing and they will sit better within the landscape. The Abbot has assured us should the project need to grow, it will grow over time as the need arises.
“Let’s start the project and wait and see what the pressures are.”
While in the Shoalhaven the Abbot was also shown the award winning Philip Cox designed Willinga Park equestrian centre at Bawley Point. There was also a visit to the proposed site at Comberton Grange.