In April 2016 we discovered via a media release that Council had secretly purchased the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site for $2.7 million (excluding GST) Council buys Batemans Bay Bowling Club site Friday 29 April 2016 Council has purchased the former Batemans Bay Bowling Club and Mayor Lindsay Brown says he is delighted to be able to share the news with the community after months of confidential property negotiations. Council purchased the club on Friday for $2.7 million dollars (excluding GST) after giving General Manager Dr Catherine Dale delegation to start negotiations last year, and agreeing to the purchase price at a confidential meeting earlier this week. Media Release (in part) Funnily enough it hasn't been common knowledge that Council borrowed $2 million to pay for it. However if you delve down into page 52 of Council's DELIVERY PROGRAM 2013–2017 OPERATIONAL PLAN & BUDGET 2016–17 you will find the following table.
Above: Batemans Bay Bowling Club Acquisition - Loans.... $2,000,000 In Peter Cormick's Council Matters of March 5, 2017 he writes: "I am unaware of any feasibility studies or plans having been undertaken prior to the purchase, including what the cost might be beyond those already incurred, before any return might be expected. The explanation for this information not being available to the public is either that it does not exist or that it does exist but is being kept from the public. Either way, there are questions that must be answered by council. This is a prime example of an absence of transparency and accountability: a subject ripe for the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC) to investigate."
Peter is correct - look for any information on Council's website regarding the purchase of the Bowling Club Site, reports to Councillors or any specific mention of it formally and you are hard pressed to find anything of substance at all. One mention of the financial considerations around the purchase can be found in the REPORT TO ORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL HELD ON TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2016 PSR16/046 BATEMANS BAY MACKAY PARK PRECINCT REDEVELOPMENT Financial: The redevelopment is expected to be financed through a combination of state and federal government funding, Council funding and equity in the former bowling club site and private sector funding through their involvement in the redevelopment, through a PPP. A key principal of the redevelopment is a financially sustainable development. An important part of this principal will be the ongoing operating costs for any future Council owned facilities. As detailed concept plans and business cases are prepared, this financial information will become available and will form part of the planning process. In Peter Cormick’s Council Matters Feb 26th, 2017 he wrote: 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?" Peter continues: "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." Council assures us that due process was undertaken and that Councillors were consulted and played their role in the acquisition. This assurity was given by Council in writing to Mr de Jager:
Above: These are some of the answers to the many questions put to Council by Mr de Jager regarding the purchase of the Bowling Club site. In trawling through Council's website to establish if Councillors had said anything on record regarding the purchase we discovered nothing, other than the following from 2012.
On November 8th, 2016 Trish Hellier asked in Public Forum: How much longer will this facility be left idle? Council's Response: Council is currently considering options related to both the short term / interim use of the facility and the redevelopment of the broader precinct. This is a process that Council must consider carefully, because there is the potential that making the facility available for short term / interim use could require significant funds to make the facility safe and suitable for use. It is not possible to provide a timeframe in response to this question, other than to say that Council sees there are potential opportunities for short term / interim use and significant opportunities associated with the redevelopment of the precinct. "It is not possible to provide a timeframe in response to this question......" Must be very interesting terms Council has on their $2 million dollar loan. Are the current Councillors aware that the previous Council borrowed $2 million on a speculation?