In light of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site being raised in Peter Cormick’s Council Matters of Feb 26th it is inevitable that there are many in the community who might like to have their say on the matter as it is more than apparent that this is an issue that Council has been making every effort possible to be discussed behind closed doors. There is widespread opinion building regarding the continued obfuscation around the ex-BBBC purchase.
Of interest is that any development on the site that requires a change of use, will automatically require compliance with current “rules” likely to see the whole thing having to be raised to a level sufficient to prevent patrons getting wet feet plus having to satisfy all the other environmental conditions applicable to such a site inclusive of the proposed adoption of the Coastal Management Plan
Newcomers to the area might not be familiar with the revelations at the time of how deep just across the road the shopping centre’s foundation piers had to be sunk before being able to support the, essentially single level, structure. Even then, there has been some movement of the piers since completion as photos that appeared on the social media site EuroLeaks showed a couple of years ago – no real dramas but an illustration of the lack of solidity of what’s underneath.
In the absence of real information from council some guess that this is leading to a likely cost of any development being significantly upwards of $30 million. It would have to be a multi-level development to fit the possible list of uses/users council included in the call for EOI in a PPP.
Bearing in mind the shire’s relatively low population base and the site’s eccentric location nearer its northern end a key question is “Who will be game enough to provide sufficient investment to make it happen in the first place and who will provide sufficient on-going “patronage” to keep it afloat financially into the future?” Because council has not been forthcoming with a plan even after all this time without answers to these questions otherwise it will be a millstone around ratepayers necks.
No doubt, the change in the Expressions of Interest wish-list from “aged living” facilities to simply “residential” resulted from someone dropping the penny that to make a profit from the sale of apartments to cover their costs and make a contribution overall, there would have to be a lot of them and at “luxury” standards and prices to boot!
It’s too late now to pursue any of the probity or legality issues and we now need to move on to optimise the costs/benefits associated with any future developments of the site and precinct. It is just sitting there deteriorating and is an embarrassing eyesore at our northern gateway.
There are a couple of matters that could be addressed
· There was another buyer interested in the site and, we are told, that prompted council’s decision to go ahead with the purchase in order to capture the “strategic site” but the nature of that party’s intentions were never revealed – maybe that can’t be done publicly but councillors should be aware of what was proposed. Who knows, perhaps that potential buyer might be interested in some involvement still.
· There was not a feasibility study done prior to the purchase because we are told there was no definite plan. Fair suck of the sausage, how could this be? Again maybe councillors should be told a bit more than has been publicly presented.
· There was no fall-back position back should there not be a viable outcome when EOI’s were being sought. Is there one now?
· How difficult will it be to build on the site – footings went down a long way across the road when the shopping centre was being built – and what environmental constraints will require compliance?
· If the site is so strategic to the shire, why are all the members of the Sunset Committee from the northern end of the shire?
To bring readers up to date with some of the responses supplied by Council to questions regarding the site and its purchase the following are extracts of Q&A correspondences between Council to interested residents to date
In Peter Cormick’s Council Matters Feb 26th, 2017 he writes: Council’s purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site and ARIC The next ‘matter arising’, concerns questions raised by Beagle contributor Jeff de Jager, about council’s purchase of the Batemans Bowling Club site and just what part the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee has played, if any, in examining the process by which that purchase took place . Here is what he had to say: "To keep the ball rolling, Peter, was any mention made in the discussions at the meeting on the wisdom of avoiding toxic investments outside the traditional instruments and institutions or following the (only just nominal) "Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee" report on the council's investment in the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site? Seeing that the purchase of the site was in contravention of council's own procurement policy, it would be a subject one would have thought would have been thoroughly examined by an auditing and risk committee............... or was it one of those issues supposedly robustly discussed but not approved for public knowledge?" The questions raised by Mr de Jager require the attention of all councillors but, realistically, it will only receive attention from those who are genuinely committed to positive reform. And by positive reform I mean that which opens the workings of council up to the public – those to whom council is meant to be accountable – to the full extent that the relevant legislation permits. Our constant refrain is for transparency and accountability. Transparency, in simple terms, involves ‘laying it all on the table’. Accountability involves the application of meaningful consequences for transgressions of good conduct and administrative practice.
So where do we go from here?
It’s about time we had progress reports from Council on Expressions of Interest front and from the meetings of the advisory committee (formed late last year) –
What will be included?
What form will it take?
When will its construction begin?
When will it be completed?
What will it cost
How will it be payed for? Editors Note: My thanks go to the contributors to this article who wish to see the issue bought into an open forum for discussion, dissection, community inclusion and hopefully some transparency as the issue unfurls in the conversation below.