The Mystery of Tea Gardens Continues…

‘This’ is the Tea Gardens site, one of three in the Great Lakes area, owned by controversial developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee.

As we showed last issue, the disaster unfolding on the property at Tea Gardens, owned by Mr Phillip Dong Fang Lee, is an on-going mystery.


Following Cr Epov asking hard questions about this development of the then GM Glenn Handford, there has been no formal statement to the community, nor any explanation from MidCoast Council, nor from any other State or Federal Government Agency about this matter. 

Council and other agencies have now had over 90 days to send in specialists such as ecologists, water specialists, engineers and other environmental experts. Where are their reports?

This appears to be an environmental disaster of massive proportions, with serious and significant consequences to the aquifers,  to creeks, causation of acid-sulphate soils, and mutilation of the surrounding flora and fauna, including a number of protected species.

The huge canal and land-clearing is adjacent to the MidCoast Water Treatment plant, which sources water from an aquifer and provides it to the Tea Gardens community, estimated at 2000 homes and 7500 residents.


Has there been any leaching in to the creeks that surround the property? Monkey Jacket Creek is in close proximity. Has there been leaching into this creek which feeds into the Myall River? And isn’t the Myall River part of the Myall Lakes Marine Park?

What does MidCoast Water know about all this, given that it happened in its backyard? Did they send in a team to “investigate” and what did they find? There are aerial photographs of the damaged property all over the internet.


This matter was discussed in a confidential session at the Strategic Council Meeting of 14 February 2018. Why does Council keep such discussions secret?

Mr Lee apparently owns seven properties within that region, so one wonders what has been going on upon the other properties?

Last year, MidCoast Council settled a court case with Mr Lee, several days before the  new councillors were sworn in, so were our newly elected Councillors fully informed of this settlement?

Councillor Len Roberts owns property that is adjacent to that of  Mr Lee. What does Councillor Roberts know of Mr Lee’s activities, apart from saying Mr Lee has a “ditch” on his property and a fire trail.

From the dramatic photographs all over the internet this seems a mild reference to a canal 16km long, 20m wide and 2m deep, with a road made of sand alongside.

There was speculation that Council’s former General Manager was going to work for Mr Lee. The company that Mr Handford was supposedly head-hunted to work for hasn’t been identified, but Mr Handford recently registered a company, GJH Consulting (Forster) Pty Ltd, in which he is the sole shareholder and director.

The former Great Lakes, now MidCoast Council, and various other Government agencies, have been aware of numerous incidents and breaches of the law by various entities owned by Mr Phillip Dong Fang Lee, and his wife Xiaobei Shi, in our region. There have been a number of fines, prosecutions and settlements.


What investigations did MidCoast Council undertake when they were subsequently given access and what experts did they send in to assess the damage?

Questions can be asked as to why no paperwork in Council has come to light, and nothing has been said about the court case between Council (where Lisa Schiff,  Director of Planning and Natural Systems, appeared for Council) and Mr Lee’s representative, where each party agreed to pay their own costs but no public statement was made.

It appears that Council is passing the buck to various government agencies, hoping it might just be buried. When they should be investigating and documenting the trangressions and being pro-active.

The community is still waiting for answers.

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8 Responses to The Mystery of Tea Gardens Continues…

  1. wayne says:

    like i said a while ago what about all the swamp that had been filled in as you drive down teagardens straight from the big hill back in 1982 there was no houses on left handside at all was swamp untill u got to my to the 3 pines house and on right hand side was only the loanes house as well rest was pines and swamp and partly yous by horse riding school but no one ever complains about that at all ive even heard about a garage shopping centres also placed on swamp to but when a person puts a drain on there property all the whingers come out but think about what your land was before it was reclaimed from swamp

  2. Mitchell Johnson says:

    Is this why the senior compliance officer got sacked yesterday?

  3. michael says:

    who is / was the senior compliance officer.
    the latest agenda of council minutes stated there were no directors at council anymore with Ron Hartley “retiring”.
    Is Lisa Schiff a director?
    Good to see the geriatric deadwood at council being cut away.
    GM gone. Ron Hartley gone. How long before Lisa Schiff gets the axe as the person responsible for the laziest most inept planning dept in Australia?
    Dont stop now NSW dept of planning.

  4. michael says:

    a quick update straight from the previous owner of the land and the current leasor of the land. the trenches have been in place for over A CENTURY!!!!
    all the new owner did – was return them to their previous state. The entire reason he bought the land in the first place. 100% legal. Although the white trash long term unemployed and highly uneducated people that post here couldnt get their racist heads around that.
    especially the person who wrote the original article without a clue of what was going on. stick to getting your dole cheque and drinking it away at the bowlo and leave business to the grown ups.

    • TianHu says:

      Hmmmmm…….Facts & assumptions are not good legal bedmates…….why has the history of the “canal” just come to light?……should`ve been made public ages ago…save a lot of inflammable gabble….I do believe the RACIST CARD is being played… thing I`d like to know… come STACKS are representing both parties ?… the Police investigating the Police !
      POWER…in any form…needs to be CONTROLLED…..then it can be used….hopefully….for the greater good…..some cool calculating heads are required to sort this case…..Before Italians,Maltese & more recently Vietnamese market gardeners…it was the Chinese market gardeners who fed Sydney in it`s infancy & continue to do so today… complaints…..Chinese have a very admirable work ethic…..I know…I`m married to one !….look at their history around the world…..educate yourself about Asia in general….corruption in many forms is part of the culture…..many times…the way to get things done…it is being addressed…..corruption is worldwide….I love Nike`s motto….JUST DO IT !….bit like “shoot first…ask questions later”…..what was his name ?….ahh yes….Dirty Harry…..good onya Clint !

    • TianHu says:

      Michael…..your most valuable information is LONG overdue & might have prevented a lot of angst if presented much earlier.
      However your description of those ill informed re. the,I think,unnecessary & inflammatory…….`tis much better to stick to the facts.
      By the way….my home in Taree is in a “disadvantaged area” & one day my nextdoor neighbour & I were called White Trash by an Indigenous resident.,,,,who I have since become friendly with……there are some
      Asians who consider Australians…White Trash….yet we have about 1-1/4 million Chinese in Australia….plus Thai,Malaysians,Philipino`s etc..with more on the way….Australia is part of Asia & a very desirable destination for many.

  5. ralph cashman says:

    Not withstanding these new facts coming to light, the reality is that this (former) Council has allowed corruption and vested interest to determine the lack of growth in residential development in North Hawks Nest for over 30 years. It is far overdue for an ICAC investigation. The Manning Community News is the only media group to take any interest in what has been happening in Hawks Nest and we must all support their actions and asking of questions of this Council.

  6. michael says:

    I have spoken with several business owners that were told clearly by then Director of Planning at MidCoast council ( Lisa Schiff ) that if they wanted to setup a business in Tea Gardens / Hawks Nest council would do everything in their power to stop it. If however they chose to do it in Forster council would bend over backwards to help them.
    This has been the case forever with the southern region getting shafted by incompitent corrupt council staff. All of which have been fired – yes Ron Hartley – not retired – fired. What they dont realise is that ICAC were recording every email and phone call as well.
    Things will start moving along now. Lisa Schiff – gone. Ron Hartley – gone. Glenn Handford – gone. A whole bunch of their cronies – gone.
    Len Roberts soon to join them and get a nice jail stint to boot. Oh happy days. Praise jebus Len or rainbow serpent or what ever imaginary deity you worship in your deluded little fantasy world.

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