Yass mayor Rowena Abbey still trying to remove alleged cocaine importer from firms

A new service station proposed by the husband of Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey near the town on Yass Valley Way is in limbo, as the mayor and her husband look to extricate their business dealings from an alleged cocaine importer.

Mrs Abbey's husband Brendan has succeeded in removing the alleged cocaine importer, Murrumbateman man Rohan Arnold from the company behind the proposed Yass Industrial Park, taking over Mr Arnold's share of the business.

But Mr Arnold remains a major shareholder in the companies behind the group's Western Victoria Livestock Exchange in Mortlake, and the South Eastern Livestock Exchange in Yass.

Yass mayor Rowena Abbey and her husband are still trying to remove alleged cocaine importer, Rohan Arnold, from their businesses. Photo: Melissa Adams

Yass mayor Rowena Abbey and her husband are still trying to remove alleged cocaine importer, Rohan Arnold, from their businesses. Photo: Melissa Adams

A year after Mrs Abbey pledged to remove Mr Arnold from the companies, she and the other directors are struggling to do so.

Company documents show Mr Arnold ceased to be a director of the firm behind the industrial park and service station, Yass Industrial Park Pty Ltd, in early November last year, though it is unclear whether Mr Abbey bought out his share.

The proposed industrial park would be opposite the existing service station on the highway, just north of Yass and originally had included a service centre, food and drink outlets and car and truck workshops.

Mr Arnold was extradited from Serbia in March last year, after he was arrested in January over his role in one the largest seizures of cocaine in Australian history, and in August last year he was denied bail in the NSW Supreme Court.

He is one of three men facing charges related to the alleged importation, alongside Canberra men David Campbell and Tristan Waters, with Mr Campbell in custody in Australia, while Mr Waters is still in Serbia, fighting Australian extradition efforts.

Despite the Yass Valley Council approving the rezoning of the land to allow the service centre early last year, and Mr Arnold resigning as director, no new development application has been lodged to build the proposed station on the Hume Highway since.

The service centre had sparked concerns from the owners of an existing service station nearby, that led Mr Abbey and Mr Arnold to apply to the council to amend the local environment plan to allow a "service centre" or industrial park on the site.

Owen Lennie, a director of the company that owns the existing service station, has said the company was open to more competition in the area.

But the firm has also repeatedly raised concerns with the council and the NSW government about potential conflicts of interest on the proposal, given Mrs Abbey's husband was a director of the proposed industrial park.

Despite those objections, the NSW planning department referred the decision to rezone the land to allow the industrial park back to the council, with Mrs Abbey recusing herself from the decision to approve it.

Mrs Abbey would not comment for this report, referring questions to a statement Mr Abbey had previously made; that the removal of Mr Arnold from the companies was a "legal process and it takes time to complete".