UPDATE: Pisasale defends his support of donor Sekisui
WHAT WE KNOW:
- IPSWICH Mayor Paul Pisasale lobbied former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to approve a $2 billion project at Yaroomba on the Sunshine Coast, on behalf of major developer and political donor Sekisui House.
- SUNSHINE Coast councillor Christian Dickson has labelled Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale's actions in pushing for the Sekisui House proposal to go ahead as "quite clearly lobbying".
- The ABC reported this morning that a fresh disclosure to the Electoral Commission of Queensland revealed a donation of $5000 was made from Sekisui to Cr Pisasale prior to the March council elections.
- SEKISUI House has defended its letter to Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale asking him to intervene to "rectify" the problems the company was having with its proposed Yaroomba development.
- Cr Pisasale ays ABC did not give him right of reply and the matter has already been investigated by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
LATEST: IPSWICH Mayor Paul Pisasale has hit back at ABC reports he lobbied on behalf of a developer keen to get a $2 billion project on the Sunshine Coast over the line.
Cr Pisasale said it was old news, had been investigated by the CCC, given a new headline and was part of an ongoing smear campaign against him.*
The ABC reported on Tuesday Cr Pisasale lobbied Campbell Newman on behalf of Japanese developer Sekisui House over their proposed six-star hotel and residential scheme at Coolum.
Sekisui House donated $5000 to Cr Pisasale's mayoral re-election campaign this year, which was reported by ARM last month.
Cr Pisasale said he was simply giving advice to a company who wanted to spend billions of dollars in the state.
He said Sekisui House executives approached him for advice more than three years ago after their Sunshine Coast project was knocked on the head.
"Every decision I have made has always been in the best interest of this city and absolutely no developer could ever buy that vote," he said.
"They (Sekisui House) could not work out what happened on the Sunshine Coast.
"So I called Mayor Jamieson who told me they did not conform to the town plan and they did not follow the community consultation process.
"I went back to Sekisui House and told them to start all over again, work with the community and follow the town plan.
"I hear they have started to put that advice into place and have started over again.
"I did not lobby anyone at any stage . . . I simply gave them some advice."
Cr Pisasale said it was during that conversation Sekisui House executives revealed they had never met then-premier Campbell Newman, who had only just been elected to office.
He said he told the executives to write a letter stating what they were all about and he would pass it on to the premier.
"They wanted the opportunity to meet with the premier as they were spending a lot of money in the state," he said.
"They sent me a letter, I put it on my letterhead and sent it to Campbell Newman saying this is what they wanted to talk to him about.
"They organised it from there and then went ahead and had the meeting with him.
"I did the introduction and was not involved in any discussions . . . I simply introduced the two parties which is what my job is as a mayor."
Cr Pisasale said it seemed some sections of the media wouldn't accept he had passed one of the most stringent investigations any politician could face.
"Not once did he mention all those allegations have been investigated by the Crime and Corruption Commission and were 100% cleared."
Cr Pisasale said he fully supported Speaker Peter Wellington's call on Tuesday for greater transparency surrounding political election donations.
He said he would like to see widespread changes to political donations laws at a local, state and federal level.
Campbell Newman could not be reached for comment.
EARLIER: The ABC reported this morning that a fresh disclosure to the Electoral Commission of Queensland revealed a donation of $5000 was made from Sekisui to Cr Pisasale prior to the March council elections.
Sekisui House senior development manager Evan Aldridge spoke to the Daily today about Cr Pisasale's advocating to then-Premier Campbell Newman on behalf of the developer.
The actions were described by Sunshine Coast Councillor Christian Dickson as "quite clearly lobbying".
"I think that was a shining example of where Sekisui House had been able to demonstrate to the Ipswich City councillor and Mayor Paul Pisasale about what we can do and the innovations we can bring to a development and looking to have that advocated," Mr Aldridge said.
"I don't think that has any bearing on where we are now, we've started from a clean sheet of paper and we're trying to get the revised input and criteria to come up with a new proposal."
"I think Mayor Paul Pisasale is quite an advocate for getting great development everywhere… he's definitely been able to see firsthand what we can bring to developments and if he's going to positively champion on us to do that elsewhere than that's a good thing."
Mr Aldridge was unable to confirm whether or not Sekisui House, its associated companies or employees had donated to Sunshine Coast Councillors or the Mayor when asked this morning.
"I'm not aware of that. I can't comment on that, that's above my pay grade," Mr Aldridge said.
Christian Dickson says Pisasale was "quite clearly lobbying"
UPDATE 12pm: SUNSHINE Coast councillor Christian Dickson has labelled Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale's actions in pushing for the Sekisui House proposal to go ahead as "quite clearly lobbying".
Cr Dickson was speaking after today's third focus group meeting between Sekisui House representatives, business and industry players and community representatives at Yaroomba.
News broke this morning of Cr Pisasale's involvement in the Coast development push back in 2013.
Sekisui House's senior development manager Evan Aldridge said Cr Pisasale was an advocate of good development everywhere and he'd seen first hand the work Sekisui House could do.
Sekisui defends request
UPDATE 11.45am: SEKISUI House has defended its letter to Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale asking him to intervene to "rectify" the problems the company was having with its proposed Yaroomba development.
In a letter dated May 29 last year, Sekisui House chair, director and chief executive officer tells Cr Pisasale:
"I was very disappointed the Sunshine Coast Council does not share your passion to drive its region into the future and create opportunities.
"It would be much appreciated if you could extend your ongoing support to Toru and Stephen to rectify this problem."
However, in a statement to the Sunshine Coast Daily this morning, the company says:
"Sekisui House followed all protocols relating to political donations to candidates as well as making regular contributions to the broader Ipswich community.
"Sekisui House has always believed in the importance of a productive working relationship with the local council and its leaders.
"The letter from Sekisui House CEO Isami Wada to Mayor Paul Pisasale dated 29 May 2015 was a gesture to thank the Mayor for his ongoing support and to discuss the Sunshine Coast development.
"Due to language and distance barriers, Sekisui House CEO Isami Wada believed that Mayor Pisasale could highlight the company's vision to the Sunshine Coast given his knowledge of the Ecco Ripley development and the high standards and corporate philosophy of Sekisui House, as well as the company's commitment to Queensland."
Ipswich mayor lobbied for Sekisui on the Coast
7.15am: IPSWICH Mayor Paul Pisasale lobbied former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to approve a $2 billion project at Yaroomba on the Sunshine Coast, on behalf of major developer and political donor Sekisui House.
ABC News is reporting that Mr Pisasale wrote a letter in 2013 to the then-Premier Campbell Newman promoting a proposed six-star hotel and residential scheme by the Japanese developer.
The proposed development became a hot-button topic on the Sunshine Coast, sparking a grassroots campaign against the plans.
The ABC reports Sekisui also asked Mr Pisasale to "rectify" its problems on the Sunshine Coast, once the public and council opposition ramped up in a later letter.
The Sekisui project on the Sunshine Coast required a change to the region's planning scheme.
In April, Sunshine Coast's councillors and mayor Mark Jamieson voted not to allow the scheme to be changed.
Sekisui is a major developer in Cr Pisasale's town of Ipswich.
It is currently developing the $500 million Ecco Ripley estate which is likely to be built over 20 years.
* An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported a claim by Cr Pisasale that the ABC journalist who wrote the initial report had not contacted him for comment. The journalist, Senior producer Mark Solomons, has since pointed out Cr Pisasale was contacted by the ABC and, in fact, provided comment. Mr Solomons also provided the Daily with a copy of the emailed answers Ipswich City Council provided him in answer to his questions for Cr Pisasale.