At the 13 June 2017 Eurobodalla Council meeting a report on possible interim use of the ex-Bowling Club in Batemans’ Bay was tabled.
Dr Susan Mackenzie - Vice president, PerfEx and Alternate Member of Sunset Committee spoke on behalf of PerfEx, as an alternate member of the Sunset committee, and for the general Arts community of Batemans Bay.
She addressed several points of contention that suggests there is more discussion needed about the options being considered for the site and building. These included: Potential interim use of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club pre development of a Performing Arts/Community Centre Response to suggestions that its contents be cleared Response to its possible demolition Costings – including the missing offsets Community transparency on this issue
On the previous Wednesday to the council meeting, a member of council staff addressed a gathering of Arts people in the Bay on the subject of the re-development of Mackay Precinct and the proposed development of a Performing Arts/Community Centre. This was volunteered by a relevant council staffer in the interest of community communication and transparency. It was mentioned in passing that both the demolition for a temporary car park and interest from the RMS for using the Bowling Club whilst the bridge was being built, was on the agenda for the following Council meetin. This was the first either had been heard of and gave little time for response.
“While it is true Council must adhere to certain rules and regulations and optimise opportunities to apply for grants to facilitate Shire projects, this building and its use is not just a practicality and its future should not be decided on fiscal notions alone.
The former Bateman’s Bay Bowling Club building is an icon to the community; a representation of a hope and aspiration, held for many years, to have a viable Performance/Arts/Community facility there,” said Dr Mackenzie.
In the interests of community collaboration and trust it is clear more Community/Council discussions need to be had before the viability of interim use of the old Bowling Club can be effectively assessed, and seen to be assessed.
When the Bowling Club was operated by the Catalina Club it provided meeting rooms, community gathering spaces, activity spaces and event/conference capabilities, including a large auditorium for general community use. As many would remember, these were lost to community use when, not very long after purchase and a refit, the Bowling Club was shut down. Community/Arts and Performance spaces, even with the present community centre, do not meet present needs let alone cater for future expansion. Community (including Arts) activities have to ‘make do’, using schools, retirement homes, small community and Life-Savers’ halls in further suburbs and towns, even Centrelink rooms. One local arts group, CABBI, struggles to fit their major exhibition into a school hall.
The Bowling Club was bought, supposedly in good faith, by the Catalina Golf club but then closed; now it has been bought, hopefully, in good faith by Council for the community. The community was asked to believe its desires for a viable Community-binding Performance/Arts precinct would be respected. As a consequence of this trust was placed in Council in the re-categorisation of the precinct to ‘operational’ land, opening the way for Public/Private partnerships (PPP) as part of the process of making this possible. Consequently, the site and venue also represent a community-perceived IOU that the community is waiting to be honoured.
Costs and viability
Based on Council costings, the difference between demolition and interim use reflect a Council investment amounting to c.$60,000pa for four years. This would seem a viable and acceptable expenditure in our community’s future vitality and commercial success, especially with the distinct possibility of this cost being offset by the sale of the tourist centre (and/or community centre) or by income from various other sources (through council/rates and support; State, Federal or community grants; community and business support; and commercial operations such as the proposed use now under consideration by council of the commercial, on-site kitchen; and other commercial activity within the building) . The costings given by council in the report show no significant offsets in relation to interim use, but these must be taken into consideration, as well as such things as community proposed use; costs to community to use the venue; arrangements for management of the centre, etc
The Arts community do not doubt operation of the site is financially sustainable, and even now have a person linked to several arts organisations and business within the town, with experience in a similar project and marketing, who has expressed interest in managing the interim centre under sub/contract.
The report had some other concerning elements in it. These seem to contradict the idea in a recent media release that ‘nothing is off the table and that all options are being considered’. It was clear from the report that Council’s preference is to dispose of items in the Bowling club, ‘from shade structures … to memorabilia and cutlery/crockery.’ It asserts: ‘Proceeding with the disposal of these items will not compromise a future decision on the short-term interim use of the bowling club.’ However, as any business person or not for profit group knows their absence certainly WILL compromise interim setup options and costs by duplicating the costs of setup, if the Club building is eventually opened for interim use. These are essential items to the viability of that interim use. Does it also imply steps towards making the building unusable and, as such, a preference to demolish the Club, as yet without any replacement?
Dispersing memorabilia and historical items is certainly appropriate, in respect of past and future history, and the local Museum and Bowling club ex-members will be glad of them, but any other clearing seems to speak of disrespect and possible other agendas. (Contact Warren Sharp at council if you have an interest in memorabilia or historical items).
Planning to gut the building or clearing its contents also implies Council has a preference for the community to not have interim use of the Club before re-development occurs. It is also considering an interest by RMS to utilise the site as a construction depot while building the new bridge, and this is also a concern.
This cultural facility development should not be held up, possibly for years, just because of this. How many years are involved is unknown. It is a community building with clear community interest in utilizing it now. Renting it out would delay the dream yet again. If the Club was demolished without at least a guarantee that a new and acceptable building was imminent, we could be left with a vacant, or sold, piece of land and still no Arts precinct.
Quoting our Mayor Liz Inness: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us as a community” and, yes we must consider that it is affordable now and into the future, but also “that it meets the needs of the community” now and into the future too.
Editors Note: The time has come to truely engage the community in discussions and be open and transparent about financials, discussions and short and long term plans for the BBBC precinct and the Batemans Bay CBD in particular