Melbourne construction magnate Mark Simonds is the latest Victorian multimillionaire to be granted an exemption to relocate his family to Queensland, after sailing up the east coast on his super-yacht, Lady Pamela.
Mr Simonds, executive director of the ASX-listed Simonds Group, was joined on his 15-day voyage along Australia’s east coast in the 30-metre vessel by his wife, Cheryl, their youngest son, and Hannah Fox, daughter of Linfox executive chairman Peter Fox.
The Lady Pamela docked on the Gold Coast about 10am on Monday, more than two weeks after leaving Melbourne on August 9, when the city was under stage four lockdown restrictions – the same day that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews reported 17 deaths linked to COVID-19 and 394 new cases.
A joint investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and A Current Affair can reveal that Mr Simonds and six other passengers and crew were not permitted to disembark on Monday until they were tested for COVID-19.
Medical staff boarded the boat about 4.30pm on Monday to conduct the testing, but it remained unclear if those on board the Lady Pamela would be required to serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
The Simonds family owns a property on the Gold Coast, while Ms Fox is expected to be reunited with her family, who have leased a property at Palm Beach since July 1.
Last week, The Age and A Current Affair revealed Mr Fox had moved with his wife and two other children to the Gold Coast based on a rule allowing truck drivers to enter the state, despite a ban on most other Victorian visitors.
Queensland Health only granted an exemption for the Lady Pamela to enter Queensland waters on Sunday night, according to police sources.
Queensland Health was contacted for comment.
Since last Wednesday, the boat had been moored in an inlet in Yamba, on the NSW north coast, where the Simonds family were seen swimming in the Clarence River and drinking on deck, while a crew member was dispatched to bring supplies.
Queensland Police had monitored the progress of the yacht over the past fortnight as it meandered up the coast, stopping on at least five occasions.
A spokeswoman for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said the public health advice for Melburnians was clear.
“You should not be travelling interstate unless it is for a permitted reason and you must comply with the rules that your destination state or territory has in place,” the spokeswoman said.
“Regardless of the mode of transport, metropolitan Melbourne stage four restrictions apply to all metropolitan Melbourne residents.”
The directions allow people to leave their home for the purposes of moving to a new home, or to leave Victoria to reside in another state.
Mr Simonds declined to comment.
At the time of the Lady Pamela’s departure, Premier Daniel Andrews commended the community for complying with strict lockdown conditions.
He also warned that: “No Victorian has the right to say, ‘Oh well, I think I can do something no one else is allowed to do.’ “
As the boat departed Victorian waters, Ms Simonds posted a photograph of the coastline on social media with four emojis of a thumbs down symbol, a face wearing a mask and two suns.
The boat and its well-heeled passengers later docked in Eden and Jervis Bay on NSW’s Sapphire Coast.
On August 15, the vessel dropped anchor in North Arm Cove and Corlette near Port Stephens, before again stopping in Coffs Harbour.
Mr Simonds began his career as an apprentice carpenter in the early ’70s, following in the footsteps of his father, Gary, who founded the construction empire in 1949. Over the past 70 years, Simonds Homes has built more than 50,000 homes across the country.
The business was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2014 and ranks as the nation’s fifth- largest home builder, according to the Housing Industry of Australia.
When Melbourne was placed on stage four restrictions on August 2, Simonds Group, which has been a long-time sponsor of the Geelong Football Club, posted a message of support on the company website.
“At Simonds we stand together with the rest of Victoria and remain committed to stopping the spread of COVID-19,” the message said.
“We also understand the key role we play in the state’s economy and the responsibility that comes with this for our customers, our staff and the wider community,” the messsage said.
Mr Simonds and his father both live in sprawling mansions on Yarradale Road, Toorak, which back onto the Yarra River.
In 2003, he was granted a permit by Stonnington Council to add a new entrance foyer, four-car garage and a mooring wharf on the river’s edge.
But in 2013, Mr Simonds rankled neighbours when he also included an outdoor bar, covered eating and entertainment area, inbuilt trampoline, storage sheds, an elaborate jetty and a Greco colonnade – none of which were included on the planning permit.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered Mr Simonds to demolish parts of his extension within 98 days and pay $80,000 in legal costs for Melbourne Water and Stonnington Council.
Senior Crime Reporter