Footage has emerged of an angry Sonny Bill Williams pacing up and down a suburban street and shouting at a local who opposes the building of a new mosque he is backing.
The retired All Black, Sydney Roosters and Canterbury Bulldogs star has been the public face for the construction of the $5 million Hurstville Masjid in a sleepy backstreet of Carlton, in Sydney’s inner south.
But the approval of the mosque has infuriated some locals who fear it will bring heavy traffic to an otherwise quiet residential area, and insist the mosque on the 1,988sqm site should never have been approved.
Now a video has been obtained by Daily Mail Australia showing Williams in a fiery confrontation with a Chinese-Australia resident – even appearing to tell him to ‘go to China’ as they yell at each other.
The neighbour started filming the NRL star-turned-commentator as Williams stalked down the street outside their homes in front of the proposed site of the new mosque.
Williams’ then suggests the nearby school should be shut down over noise, as the local asks him to come back to discuss the plans.
A video obtained by Daily Mail Australia shows Sonny Bill Williams (pictured) in a fiery confrontation with a Chinese-Australia resident
Fed up neighbours have unleashed upon a controversial new mosque heavily backed by ex-footy star Sonny Bill Williams (pictured at the site)
Transcript of the video flashpoint with NRL star Sonny Bill Williams
RESIDENT: Why you being angry at me? What’s the problem?
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS: Go to China…
RESIDENT: Did we do anything wrong? Do we do anything wrong? Mate – talk to me…don’t just run…
SBW: [muffled] …signs for the school – don’t they cause noise too?
RESIDENT: Wait, what is it? I can’t…
SBW: Should we shut down the whole school?
RESIDENT: I can’t hear you mate…
SBW: I said we should just shut down the school because noise.
RESIDENT: You can talk to them. It’s fine. You can put up your own sign. What happened?
RESIDENT: Yeah, you can put up your own sign to shut up the school I don’t mind.
SBW: [muffled] Put it on your bill…
RESIDENT: I don’t mind, I don’t mind. I don’t think it’s a problem to be honest.
SBW: [Apparent Islamic farewell, possibly a version of ma’a salama]
The man who filmed the video has since left the street.
The video comes as neighbours of the mosque now under construction told Daily Mail Australia they have suffered a campaign of intimidation since they began fighting the plans in 2019.
One claimed she is close to a nervous breakdown after firecrackers were thrown into her yard and verbal abuse from strangers driving through the street.
Others say they are also on the verge of moving out of the area – but claim the value of their properties has fallen because of the ongoing controversy over the noise and potential traffic from the mosque.
‘My grandparents first bought our home – we have lived here for four generations,’ said Stella Magro, 34, who lives opposite the new mosque.
‘But we want to move now. The noise at the site started without warning at 7am and once it’s up and running there will be traffic coming in and out at all hours.
‘Their headlights will be blazing right into my mother’s bedroom – it will be unbearable.
‘We want to leave but real estate agents say we won’t get anything like what our home was once worth.’
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Williams is involved in any of this harassment.
Some residents have already sold up and another admitted: ‘We’re ready to pack up too. We’re either going to have a nervous breakdown or someone’s going to hurt us.
‘Mentally, I can’t take it any more.’
She added: ‘There are over 100 consent orders which the applicant has to adhere to which council request residents to monitor and report any breaches.
‘This is causing additional stress and impacts to our health.
‘We are not racist – and have nothing against Sonny Bill Williams – but we are concerned about the impact on our daily lives.
‘We have bad health and will need to sell our properties but we have lost value to our properties.
‘Who will compensate the residents?’
Williams, 37, and Anthony Mundine personally donated $200,000 to the mosque, and the footballer threw his fame behind the development last year, even branding locals who opposed the construction as ‘racist’.
Locals claim they have been subjected to a scare campaign of intimidation and harassment ever since a planning row erupted over the mosque and now they just want to flee the area
Neighbours say they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown after work began this week on the controversial new mosque (pictured)
He posted a photograph on Instagram of him sitting among protest signs against the mosque with the caption: ‘Racism is well and truly alive in Botany St, Carlton, Sydney.’
Neighbours insist any place of worship, either a church, mosque or temple, would bring too much traffic for the quiet residential area, which is next to a school.
They lined their street with placards protesting against the mosque, but mystery men were caught on CCTV ripping down the signs in the dead of night.
Resident Stella Magro says her house prices has plummeted since an application was approved to convert the abandoned nursing home into a mosque in Carlton in Sydney’s south
Former Canterbury Bulldogs and All Blacks hero Sonny Bill Williams lives in the Carlton area with his South African-born former model wife Alana, 29, and their three young children, Imaan, 6, Aisha, 4, and Zaid, 3 (pictured)
‘God willing, we’ll be praying 365 days a year, five times a day’
Sonny Bill Williams lives in the area with his South African-born former model wife Alana, 29, and their three young children, Imaan, 6, Aisha, 4, and Zaid, 3.
The Kiwi converted to Islam in 2009 while playing in France, and his wife, mother and brother have also since converted too.
Williams joined with Anthony Mundine and former footballer Hazem El Masri to campaign for the Carlton mosque.
‘The Muslim community has been here in the Carlton area since 1950s and has never had a mosque,’ he said.
Williams welcomed its approval – three years after the application was first lodged – in a video for the mosque’s website.
‘As a proud Muslim in this area, this is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time,’ he said.
‘It’s been a roller coaster ride to get this Masjid up and running, maybe four or five years.
‘Either way you look at it, it’s been a beautiful process.’
Williams added on social media: ‘God willing we’ll be praying 365 DAYS, 5 TIMES A DAY at our new Masjid very soon.
‘May the most high eradicate racism from our society.’
Residents claim the conflict stepped up when one home was targeted in drive-by firecracker attacks, with two within a matter of five days.
‘We thought a bomb had gone off,’ said a neighbour, one of several multicultural locals who spoke to Daily Mail Australia, but asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
‘It was awful. We didn’t know if it was gunfire or what. It shook our house and we are quite far from where they threw it.’
CCTV video footage of the incidents shows a car pull up outside one home before a sudden bright flash as the firework explodes in a shower of flames.
In the second video, a car repeats a similar attack before moments later a second vehicle pulls up and the driver jumps out to collect the remains before driving off.
‘The second vehicle was picking up the ashes of the firecracker to take away the evidence,’ said the neighbour.
Every nearby home has now installed CCTV to watch over the road after the series of disturbing incidents, including strangers in cars abusing them.
Ms Magro said the incidents had left her mother afraid to leave the house but police had told them they were unable to act.
‘Because they didn’t physically abuse her or set foot on our property, there’s nothing the police can do,’ she said.
‘So intimidation and scaring my mother to that level means nothing. It’s going to take somebody to come on our property and physically hurt my mother…’
Contractors working at the mosque site on Monday denied any link to the incidents and blamed it on ‘randoms’ who had nothing to do with the mosque.
The contractor – who declined to give his name – slammed the locals as ‘racist liars’.
BITTER COUNCIL FIGHT
Some neighbours claimed they can’t even lodge complaints about breaches of the approved development application because they live on the wrong side of the road.
The mosque lies in Georges River Council area, but the homes overlooking the rear of the property are in neighbouring Bayside Council.
And when they tried to report the lack of required fencing or DA notices when work began at the site on Monday, they found themselves snared in red tape.
‘I tried to phone GRC – but because I lived in Bayside, they wouldn’t listen to me,’ said one neighbour. ‘But when I phoned Bayside, they transferred me back to GRC…
‘We’re caught in a nightmare.’
Every nearby home has now installed CCTV (pictured) to watch over the road after the series of disturbing incidents, including verbal attacks from strangers in cars abusing them
Imams bought the current former Botanic Gardens nursing home on Botany Street (pictured) and a neighbouring property (left) to demolish for additional parking and access
Locals on the quiet street claim they have been subjected to a scare campaign of intimidation and harassment since the planning row erupted and they now just want to flee the area
Locals can’t understand why the development was approved in an R2 residential zone when other places of worships in similar or busier areas had been rejected.
‘One in an R3 zone in King Georges Road was declined by council,’ said one neighbour. ‘A Chinese temple in Wright Street was also declined.
‘But this one was approved. Council wouldn’t even meet with us. One of the council officials told us if we’re unhappy about it, we could move.’
The locals claim the initial application was for 120 worshippers at the site but that was later scaled back to just 20 to get the plans approved.
‘Why would you build something over two levels and raise $5million for just 20 worshippers?’ questioned another neighbour.
The contractor at the site said work would take a year to gut the existing building and redevelop it, with locals saying the DA quoted the project budget at $1million.
The site is 15 minutes away from the popular nearby large Lakemba mosque which has just announced plans to upgrade.
The site is 15 minutes away from the popular nearby large Lakemba mosque (pictured) which has just announced plans to upgrade
An elder at Lakemba mosque told Daily Mail Australia they had launched a fundraising drive (pictured) to extend it after it was overwhelmed by Eid celebrations this month
An elder at Lakemba mosque told Daily Mail Australia they had launched a fundraising drive to extend it after it was overwhelmed by Eid celebrations this month.
He said a 500m queue of traffic had lined the length of the street as Muslim families flocked to the mosque to mark the end of Ramadan, highlighting its need to expand.
Locals in Carlton fear they will face similar traffic problems and warned: ‘This site is actually bigger than the one in Lakemba.’
The original plan was thrown out by GRC after a furious backlash from more than 2,000 locals, but it was approved by NSW Land and Environmental Court in December.
The building will be housed in an abandoned nursing home which will be gutted to create a series of male and female prayer and community rooms over two floors.
Neighbours fear a dramatic increase in noise and traffic from the mosque, which even its backers admit will serve up to 20,000 local Muslims in the area.
Council planning chiefs estimated it would need at least 97 car park spaces to cope with the demand – based on just one car for every 10 visitors – but the approved plans only have room for 27 cars.
Plans for an external rear combined prayer room on the 1,988sqm site were scrapped to create four more parking spaces, which proved enough to green light the project.
There are no traditional domes or prayer towers in the plans for the new Hurstville mosque (pictured an artist’s impression of the redeveloped building)
The earlier plan rejected by the council had fewer parking spaces and two separate car parks
Parking at the rear has now been re-arranged to create four more parking spaces by demolishing the external annex at its rear
The ground floor will feature rooms for male ablutions and shoe storage with a large male prayer room, hidden from street view by a new soundproof perimeter fence.
The first floor has four separate male and female community rooms for youths and seniors and a female prayer room, as well as toilets, female ablutions and a kitchenette.
The building also has a small studio apartment for a permanent resident at the centre of the development, which features a large bright atrium at its heart.
As well as regular, frequent prayer meetings, it will also be used for weddings, funerals, religious education sessions and counselling services.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Georges River Council and Sonny Bill Williams’ representatives for comment.
Why some locals oppose Hurlstone Masjid in Carlton
The proposal will result in loss of privacy for surrounding residential dwellings;
The acoustic impacts of the proposal will disturb neighbours;
The proposal will increase activity in the residential neighbourhood;
The proposal is an overdevelopment of the site;
The development is inconsistent with a low density residential character and this is reflected in the prohibition of Places of Public Worship in the R2 zone under the new Local Environmental Plan;
The site is unsuitable for the development;
The development does not provide the required number of car parking spaces onsite;
Cars associated with the use of the development will be parked on surrounding streets;
There will be vehicles leaving the site after 10pm;
There will be queues of cars during special events and Ramadan, blocking access to Ethel Lane;
The visitor numbers are an underestimation of the capacity of the development;
The Plan of Management cannot be enforced;
Clarification is needed regarding the proposed crowd control measures associated with the development;
The residents should not be required to report breaches of the conditions of consent to the Council;
The amended proposal does not ameliorate the concerns of the objectors;
The development is likely to be intensified in the future;
The Council had ignored the wishes of the local residents;
The value of properties proximate to the development will decrease;
The increased vehicular traffic around the development will pose a safety risk to school children;
The new Local Environmental Plan should be considered as the development is prohibited under the new plan;
The trial period will occur after the development has been constructed;
The fence along Xenia Avenue must be an acoustic fence;
The planned prayer session clash with sports afternoons and school dismissal;
The current configuration of the driveway only allows for a single car to enter or exit;
There is no room for a small rigid vehicle to turn around; and
Car parking spaces should be 2.6m wide instead of 2.5m wide.