Controversy as Minister for Western Sydney linked to $27 million NSW Government purchase
The New South Wales Government’s purchase of an historic estate in Western Sydney has triggered questions from the Labor opposition after it was revealed that the registered proprietors are close friends with the Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres MP.
Last year Mr Ayres announced that the NSW Government had acquired the 385-hectare Fernhill estate in Mulgoa for $27 million.
The property includes a sandstone homestead built in 1845.
At the time the NSW Government purchased the property in March 2018, Simon and Brenda Tripp were the registered proprietors.
It has now come to light that Mr and Mrs Tripp are close friends of Mr Ayres and his partner Senator Maris Payne, the federal Minister for Foreign Affairs.
In June 2013 Mrs Tripp attended a fundraising dinner to celebrate Mr Ayres’ third year in Parliament, with a seat at Mr Ayres’ and Ms Payne’s table.
In 2014 the Tripps hosted Ms Payne’s 50th birthday party at Fernhill, free of charge.
The NSW opposition has raised questions about the relationship and whether it affected the purchase of the property.
“Mr Ayres issued a press release saying the NSW Government had purchased the Fernhill property from Angas Securities for more than $27 million,” said shadow treasurer Ryan Park.
“Why did he fail to mention that the registered owners of the property were Simon and Brenda Tripp, his close personal acquaintances?”
In 2012 Angas Securities and the Tripps entered into an agreement, under which the Tripps moved to Fernhill and held an option to buy the central historic section of the property for $10 million.
If they could generate more than $55 million through the subdivision and sale of the eastern and western sections of the estate, they would be allowed to keep the remainder.
However, Penrith Council rejected their plans to consolidate and subdivide those sections, and Mr and Mrs Tripp left the property in early 2016, after which they retained no financial interest in Fernhill.
They remained the registered proprietors of the property, subject to an $18 million mortgage to Angas, when the NSW Government announced the purchase in March 2018.
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