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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Tuross community Assoc. shafted by Council

For the sake of $347 per year four Eurobodalla Councillors (Brown, Thomson, Tait, Constable) today decided they would ignore sixty years of history and abandon a fractured relationship between the Tuross Head Community and Council that still bore scabs following several very poor decisions made in the town. Council minutes will NOT (as no division was called for) reflect how the vote went...merely that it was carried. For the record: For NOT WAIVING THE FEES ; Brown, Thomson, Tait, Constable. Against: Mayne, Nathan, McGinlay. Note: Innes and Pollock absent. Council were asked today to waive monthly meeting fees for the Tuross Head Progress Association after it was clearly stated by two presenters that the Tuross Head Progress Association had donated $200,000 to Council to rebuilt the Kyla Hall after Council failed to carry out pest inspections which saw the community funded and built hall gutted by termites. The councillors were reminded that the THPA also took a $60,000 loss in the sale of the Progress Hall land because Council sold it below the agreed reserve price and then, to top it off Council then charged the Tuross Head Progress Association $40,000 in developers fees. The Councillors were also told that Council had deceptively attempted to reclassify the Progress Hall land so they could sell it thinking that they owned it. This deception is just one in a litany of deceptions by Council such as the deception to sell off the Kyla Grazing lots to developers in 2000 and in more recent time the deception of the "need" to recategorise Kyla Park land to allow a sailing club to be built. The community argued strongly in opposition and admonished the Council regarding the grant for the shed that had serious questions around the drafting of its grant application and its lack of consultation. Adding further to the disquiet and distrust of Council by the Tuross community is the fact that Council remains unapologetic about the considerable waste of funds it last spent dredging a worthless channel at the Tuross Boatramp and it remains unapologetic to this day about the failure to undertake pest inspections on Kyla Hall that led to the termite infestation. Council staff continue to ignore requests to provide current pest inspection certificates and councillors were advised of this today. Basically the relationship between the Tuross Head community and Council has been SOUR for some time and was made the more so after 458 Tuross signatories added their protest to an 11000 strong petition saying NO to the recent increase in rates under the Special Rates Variation which were openly ignored by a majority of the last batch of Councillors. Four years ago Councillor Ferg Thomson sat in Council chambers and spoke of the wonderful work the Tuross Head Progress Association had accomplished in build a vibrant and robust community that had a can do attitude building its own cycleways and generously agreeing to donate $200,000 of the profits from selling their Progress Hall land to the refurbishment of the near-condemned Kyla Hall. Ferg spoke of his father officially opening the old Tuross Head Progress Hall and the importance that such halls have in the fabric of a community. He moved to have the meeting fees waived and it was agreed to. Those at that meeting clearly remember that the waiving in 2012 was only for the period of the term of that Council. So today the Tuross Head Progress Association came hat in hand to ask once again for the fees to be waived. Given the history the majority of Councillors voted against against waiving the fees. Most disappointing was that the history and the substantial financial and social contribution made by the THPA that was clearly presented in Public Forum seemed to have no relevance at all to the mostly indifferent councillors and their primary concern seemed only to gain as much revenue as possible and not set any precedent where another Association might ask for such dispensation. Councillor James Thompson even had the audacity to state "We are here to make a decision on the fees. Let's do it". It was James' grandfather, in his capacity as Mayor who officially opened the Tuross Head Progress Hall in the 1950's and it was his father Ferg who showed respect to the THPA in 2012 for their fifty years of community commitment and their generosity in contributing $600,000 back to their community from the profits of the land sale but, to Councilor James Thompson today he appeared not give a rats arse for the Tuross community, its representatives or for the history offered. Councillor Lindsay Brown had the audacity to say that it was "time to move on from history" and that organisations like the Tuross Head Progress Association should simply pay a fee for service. If there was any dispensation other groups would ask "What about me?". Apparently community groups are contributing $330,000 in revenue each year to Council for hall hire. Additionally Councillor Brown had advised his fellow councillors during debate of an alternate truth that the 2012 Council could have determined to perpetual waiving of fees rather than granting a one-off. To his credit, Councillor Mayne who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Liz Innes offered that he had listened to the two presenters and learnt much that he did not know of the history of the halls that was not revealed in Councillors briefings. With this new information he felt that it would be fair and reasonable to give the issue more consideration and to defer it for further discussion as it was obvious that the imposed fee would have an impact on the community. This view was not supported. Today's decision will mean that the THPA will need to either increase their membership fee to cover the cost of compulsory insurance and hall hire or abandon the Kyla Hall and find another venue for their meetings. A very sour taste has been left behind for Council's decision. The loss of respect for Council today is far in excess of $347 a year and a new day begins tomorrow in the relationship between Tuross Head and the new Council.

Above: Gary Cooper, President of the Tuross Head Progress Assoc

Presentation to Council by Gary Cooper - President of the Tuross Head Progress Association: Progress Association Privilege

Reading some of the Progress Association history last night I learned that the THPA is 60 years old this year.

During its existence the Association has represented the community in the relationship between the village community and the various Eurobodalla Councils. From my reading the relationship has primarily been cordial and effective although there have been disputes as one would expect. It appears that such issues have been coped with.

During the 60 years the Progress Association & the village have built 2 community halls, which with the passage of time were passed to the Council for management. Subsequently the Council and the Progress Association formed a Sunset Committee to rationalise this situation. Following community consultation the community decided that the village could only afford one hall. This agreement resulted in the Progress Hall being demolished and the land sold.

The Sunset Committee agreed that moneys raised from the sale of the land would be committed to the Tuross community

The first payment was of $200,000 to the Council as the community’s contribution for the repair of Kyla Hall.

The community also accepted the loss of $60,000 as the land was sold approximately this amount below the reserve.

This is now past history.

On reflexion the village community sees themselves as different to other towns in the shire due to the villages stewardship of the Council resulting from the peninsula land being classified as Community land rather than Crown land. For many years there was a belief that Tuross was less important to the Shire than the other community’s in the shire. This attitude encouraged the role of the Progress Association’s in the community to being the major interface to the Council by helping the community identify, discuss and propose solutions to issues of concern. In Tuross this scope covers an extensive range of activities which results in the Association representing the village community extensively, especially with the Council. With current membership at 127 and growing, we are the major representative of the community and have been for most of the last 60 years and at the same time have not had to pay for the use of the any of the community’s facilities. This was despite the fact that the Council managed these halls for about 30 years of the period.

To conclude I ask you to not change history and introduce a fee for the Progress Association use of the Tuross community facilities. Presentation to Council by Lei Parker - Resident and member of the Tuross Head Progress Association:

Good Morning Deputy Mayor and Councillors Mabuhay to the Mayor watching via Live Streaming My name is Lei Parker and I am a resident of Tuross Head and a member of the Tuross Head Progress Association. I strongly believe that ALL fees should be waived for the Tuross Head Progress Association at the Kyla Hall. Might I offer some relevant history first that appears to have been forgotten. Tuross Head, up until 2010, had two halls. The current one at Kyla Park was opened in January 1983 and was built for sporting purposes. It was funded and built by the community through fundraising and grants with considerable volunteer effort. In 2002 the hall was handed over in sound condition to Council and placed into their care and full maintenance. The second hall the village had was the Tuross Head Progress Hall. It was built by the community in the 1950’s and served as the principle hall for the town. It was managed by the Tuross Head Progress Association for nearly sixty years. In 2009 the Eurobodalla Shire Council first indicated its desire to rationalise the two Tuross Halls and provide just the one facility. Council suggested that Tuross Head was the only town in the Shire with two halls and that Council did not have the funds to maintain both to a satisfactory standard. They also added, in passing, that the old hall would require “bringing up to standard” in terms of disabled access, carparking and building code changes. Instead of openly declaring their decision to rationalise the halls they underhandedly advised the Tuross community of their intent by nominating the Progress Association land in Jutland Avenue to be reclassified from Community to Operational with a view to selling it. This was how the community learnt of their intention. The community was not pleased. At that time Council thought that they owned the Progress Hall land. Their intent was clear. Rationalise to one hall. Nominate the new one and then sell the land of the old one and put the money into the General Fund. However their plan failed. Firstly documented proof was presented that proved the hall land actually belonged to the community and was simply held in trust by Council and, as such, would require corralling of any land sale money to remain in the Tuross Head community. Secondly the Kyla hall, the hall of choice, supposedly maintained by council, was found to have been neglected during all this discussion and was now riddled with termites to the extent that it was nearly condemned. Council identified that it would cost $250,000 to repair the Kyla Hall. They also admitted that they did not have that amount of money - however they could find $75,000. After lots of community consultation it was agreed, by the community, to sell the hall land and knock down the old hall and earmark $200,000 toward repairs and refurbishment of Kyla Hall as well as fund projects around the village such as the Nelson Parade viewing platform, One Tree Point upgrade, One Tree BBQ area and an extension of the cycleway. In all $600,000 was raised from the sale with $200,000 going to the Kyla Hall project. Of note is that $40,000 went to Eurobodalla Shire Council in “developer’s” fees for having subdivided the land for quicker sale. It is important to note that the $200,000 was given conditionally by the THPA who had clearly moved that, upon opening of the new Kyla Hall, a Section 355 Management Committee be established to oversee the running of this hall. The tension between the community and Council in regards to the continued unanswered questions of how the Kyla Hall came to fall into such disrepair saw Council reluctantly agree to establishing a Section 355 Management Committee. This committee then took two years to establish. The Kya Hall was refurbished and the Tuross Head Progress Association moved its filing cabinets across to their new home. They then discovered that they were required to pay a fee to use the hall for their meetings. In 2012 they sought and gained a waiver of these fees from the Council of the day. Now they again are required to come hat in hand to seek a waiver from this term of Councillors. Before you is a report requesting a donation from Council equivalent to the prescribed fee for use of the Kyla Park Hall to hold its monthly meetings. It says: In December 2012, Council agreed to make a one-off donation equivalent to the prescribed fee for the THPA for use of the Kyla Park Hall until 30 June 2016. (NOTE It was a one-off as Councillors can not give a donation beyond their four year term - so yes it was a one-off for THOSE Councillors only) It says: The Tuross community also received the benefit of the sale of the land made vacant by the demolition of the old Tuross Progress Hall with priority projects selected by the community now complete. (Well excuse me - A Reminder to Council - the Tuross community owned the Hall land so... YES, the Tuross Community received the benefit of the sale and the community directed that money to Tuross community projects with a Sunset Committee in place to oversee that Council spent every cent within the Tuross community - including giving $200,000 for the upgrade of the Kyla Hall ) Today’s report says: Generally Council does not donate user fees to not-for-profit community groups as these groups are granted a 40% discount for regular hire of public halls under the adopted Fees and Charges. (A reminder to Council that GENERALLY community groups don’t donate $200,000 to Council to fix a public hall because Council did not undertake termite inspections of a hall (Kyla Hall) which was actually built and paid for by the Tuross Head community and taken over by Council to manage.) So the recommendation today is “Council does not donate user fees to not-for-profit community groups as these groups are granted a 40% discount for regular hire of public halls under the adopted Fees and Charges.” They continue in the report: Generally Council has not donated fees for regular use by a community group. However, at the Ordinary Meeting of Council held on 18 December 2012 Council resolved to: 1) Make a donation equivalent to the prescribed fee for the Tuross Head Progress Association for use of the Kyla Park Hall until 30 June 2016; 2) Recognise the history of the Tuross Head Progress Association’s previous arrangements with the Tuross Hall and also recognise this arrangement as a one-off arrangement; (A One Off as this was the extent of their elected term - let's get this in context) 3) Note that any properly constituted meeting of a future Kyla Park Hall management committee would be exempt from hall hire charges. (Council please Note: A Kyla Park Hall management committee is NOT a community meeting open to the community about wider community matters.) So here we are again - a new four year period, new councillors and a new request for the waiving of fees for Tuross Head Progress Association meetings. Council requires the THPA to have $20 million dollar Public Liability insurance in order to use the hall - that premium costs over $400 per year - then they want nearly $400 more in hall fees each year for the THPA to conduct its community meetings. How much are we talking about? By the report: The current fee of $22.00 + GST per hour for use of Kyla Park Hall for a non-function, with the 40 per cent discount applied is $13.20 + GST per hour. The draft Fees and Charges for 2017-18 has this fee set at $24.00 + GST per hour or $14.40 + GST per hour with the 40 per cent discount applied. An average THPA meeting is 2 hours each month for 11 months per year = 11 x 2 x $15.80 (incl GST) = $347.60 per year FACT: The Tuross Head Progress Assoc has just over 120 members. They pay $5 per year in membership fees. If required to find $347.60 to pay for their meetings and another $400 to pay the compulsory Public Liability insurance required by Council their $600 per year membership income falls well short. The STAFF'S justification for their recommendation is: Should Council agree to donate the Kyla Park Hall hire fees for the THPA to hold monthly meetings at the facility, other community associations may have increased expectations of receiving similar treatment. Any donation of user fees affects the income received from community facilities and reduces the funds available for asset maintenance. A reminder to Councillors that no other community association injected a further $200,000 into the restoration of a hall (The Kyla Hall) that the community had fund raised, built and then handed over in good faith to Council to manage only to see it fall into such disrepair through GROSS mismanagement that it was on the edge of being condemned. If the Tuross Head community still had its old hall it would have its meetings fee-free If it chose to have a jumble sale, a concert or market stalls it would be able to do so – fee-free Now, if it wants to consider having a community function, it has to pay $397 per event and be limited to hall only and not the grounds. Today Council will be looking at the eurobodalla community strategic plan that asks:

Section 8. deals with collaborative and engaged community building … a collaborative, connected community that recognises our mutual responsibility to work towards our goals, and actively participate and engage to improve outcomes for Eurobodalla. This involves being informed, having access to up to date information about local issues, and a variety of options to easily and readily engage in an open dialogue with community leaders and organisations to express their views.

Councils Role – to Support community groups and organisations and encourage shared responsibility through an informed community providing opportunities for broad and meaningful engagement and working together with our partners in Progress and community associations - to enhance trust, participation and community pride. Councillors, to charge community groups in Eurobodalla $397 per year to hire their own public hall to hold public meetings to provide meaningful engagement and expect them to pay $400 plus in Public Liability will see community groups walk away as they cannot set membership fees higher simply to pay council to use a hall they already built and paid for and continue to pay for in upkeep by their ever increasing rates.

I ask that Council waive ALL future Kyla Hall fees for the Tuross Head Progress Association in respect and recognition of their contribution and in recognition of the ongoing role they provide in service of the Tuross Head community and that waiving of hall hire fees be extended (where applicable) to all township community associations throughout the Shire and that Council cover such meetings under its own Public Liability insurance.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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