Dear Beagle Editor, So that the community can be included in the conversations regarding the largest project that has ever been undertaken by Eurobodalla Council I feel it essential that all sides of the discussion are heard. Recently the Mayor, Liz Innes, publicaly discussed my resignation from the Mackay Park Sunset Committee and offered critique of that resignation. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to now respond and provide my recent correspondence to the Mayor below: Dear Liz, I attach my response to your critique of my letter of resignation from the Mackay Park Sunset Committee. As you are aware the Chamber and myself have been unwavering advocates for the Arts, Cultural, Tourism and Aquatic Centre in Mackay Park long before Council purchased the ex-Bowling Club Site. The fact that almost one half of the community component of the Mackay Park Sunset Committee have publicly endorsed the content of my resignation, contradicts Council’s claims that the process has been inclusive and genuine. Council’s accusations that different groups were placing Council’s grant funding in jeopardy; thereby pitting community groups against each is inappropriate. All groups that I know of are united in cause and support Minister Andrew Constance’s grant funding. Community input should have been considered in less inflammatory circumstances. The quoted terms of reference (1 and 2) for the Mackay Park Sunset Committee used to refute my claims are telling. 1 “To assist Eurobodalla Shire Council with the investigation of opportunities for the development of the precinct. “ Response: Opportunities and concepts were not given ample investigation. The committee was directed to consider only the Aquatic and Arts Centre components of the precinct. The community group Proposal for the purchase of the Ex-Bowling Club site and the PerfEx Proposal were both dismissed prior to Sunset Committee meetings. Separate to the Sunset Committee meetings I was told by yourself that my idea to organise a non-profit community group to purchase the ex- bowling club site to provide services not provisioned in the Otium Plan, would not happen. Not long after this suggestion you asked me to resign from the committee on probity grounds, which did not exist. The committee was essentially directed to solely consider “Otium’s” plans. Council is aware that the tens of thousands of dollars spent on benchmarking predominantly loss-making local government venues to form a business case is a prohibitive cost for a local volunteer organisation, yet this argument was used to dismiss the PerfEx Option. At no stage did Council request this additional business case information up to the time where PerfEx attempted to present plans drawn up by award winning architects, with input from the largest accommodation, building and event providers in the Shire. 2 “To develop and oversee the community engagement process during the investigation of opportunities for the development of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park precinct.” Response: At no stage was the Sunset Committee given any opportunity to oversee the community engagement process – this was entirely directed by Council. As reiterated before, the centre needs sufficient area and point of difference to be multi-use eg “maximise yield per square metre through different uses”, which must include events. People don’t go to sit-down concerts every day of the week. Council’s plan to now have a hotel with a conference centre providing events has neither evidence nor precedent. Regional accommodation providers use conference facilities primarily to fill beds, not facilitate events. I acknowledge and appreciate that as Mayor you have assured the community that a redesign will occur and the limited footprint will be addressed. Council’s public request for a replacement for the Chamber’s President to the Mackay Park Sunset Committee directly undermines both the Chamber and its Presidency. The Chamber is an apolitical organisation. It will meet in the new year to discuss its advocacy role in light of member concerns about being associated with an organisation which Council seeks to target through the media, regarding Mackay Park. I’m sure you can appreciate that some members have expressed concern about their business with Council and development applications. While the Chamber believes that Council’s bureaucratic integrity is evident these perceptions now need to be addressed. The Chamber will continue to advocate for the best possible outcome for the community and hope a collaborative approach can be attained. A collaborative approach would also open doors for philanthropic private/corporate donors who have interests in developing art facilities in regional Australia. Yours sincerely, David Maclachlan President Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber
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