Letter to the Beagle Editor – HISTORY – FACT - OR - FICTION –
Why Did The Eurobodalla Council Buy The Bowling Club Site? As I drove pasted the Batemans Bay Bowling Club I noticed the car park was full to overflowing due to the concert that was being held at McKay Park and I thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice to see this amount of cars and people at this site every weekend.
I reflected back to May 2015 at the shire wide meeting at the BB Soldiers Club the Bowling Club where it was discussed by a couple of people from the community, all stating this was such a prime site left sitting vacant and suggesting that the Council purchase the Bowling Club for community use.
There was a statement made by Council in 2016 that they would not be purchasing the Bowling Club.
IS THIS WHEN THE PLOT THICKENED?
In March 2016 a property went to auction on the cnr. Beach Road and Pacific Street. This site was zoned R3 Medium Density and as such could be redeveloped with the potential to provide residential units. This property failed to attract a bid at action. However in light of an inquiry received by Council in regard to this marketed site it is understood that staff commenced an assessment of the current and potential use of what they thought then was Council Owned land (namely Albert Ryan Park).
On the 12th April 2016 at a Council meeting on the Agenda item no. PSR 16/009 there was a proposal to Rezone and Reclassify lots 10 and 11 DP 236432 Beach Road Batemans Bay (Albert Ryan Park). This motion was moved by Clr. Liz Innes and seconded by Clr. Rob Pollock. Giving credit to Liz Innes she did state at the time that this was “to start a conversation with the community” even though I have a slightly different view as to how to go about “starting a conversation with the community as such. If you look at this issue which strategically involves land at Batemans Bay you would have to have a councillor from Batemans Bay move the motion. With the only other Councillor at the time being Clr. Milton Leslight who was (and remains) a real-estate agent any such motion from him would be considered a “conflict of interest”. Council's best choice therefore was a Batemans Bay, born and bred Councillor in Liz Innes with the creditable seconder to the motion coming by way of long term councillor Clr. Rob Pollock.
In reviewing the Live Streaming of this council meeting Clr. Daniel Brice asked a question to the General Manager with words to the effect “What was the history of Albert Ryan Park?”, the reply from the General Manager being “The land comprises on 4,500 square metres”. That was it. It would appear that the GM had not done any research on this land and this was all that the GM new about this land despite the fact that she is responsible for the accuracy of what appears on a Council’s Agenda.
It should be noted at the same time a 4330 sq mtr. block of land on the nearby corner of Beach Road and Herarde Ave (which is situated on the next cnr. of Beach Road) was listed for sale with a rumoured price tag of $3million dollars. No doubt Council was rubbing its hands at the prospect of selling Albert Ryan Park.
Soon after the Council Meeting that revealed Council's intention to sell Albert Ryan Park a group formed calling itself “Save Albert Ryan Park”. They organised a petition and were successful in achieving over 1800 signature to support retaining the park and the ammenities and facilities.
PURCHASE OF THE BOWLING CLUB SITE
On the 29th April 2016 Council conducted a “Community Consultation Meeting” at Moruya. I attended this meeting. That morning I received news that the ESC had purchased the Batemans Bay Bowling Club for $2.7 million dollars. During the meeting there was no mention of this purchase, I waited until the end of the meeting and I asked the question of then Mayor Brown; “Lindsay, is it true as a rate payer of this shire I now own a small part of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club” to which Lindsay Brown replied “Yes Trish you do , this morning we purchased the Batemans Bay Bowling Club”.
BACK TO ALBERT RYAN PARK
Those who have kept abreast of Council issues would be aware that a group Save Albert Ryan Park soon discovered that Council DID NOT OWN the land the park partially sat on being Lot 10 and there was doubt of the ownership of the balance of the park land being Lot 11.
Council had organised a meeting on the 9th May 2016 for residents whose property overlooked Albert Ryan Park. I attended the meeting. The Council Officer at the time, Jeff Morgan, addressed the meeting and was in the process of telling those in attendance what the Council intended for the site. One gentleman who had driven down from Sydney for the meeting went to leave the room in disgust stating “So it is pointless; Council has already made a decision”. At that point I spoke and pleaded with him not to leave the room. I then told those in attendance that Council did not own Lot 10, to which those in attendance said “Well what are we doing here then”. DESPERATION
Despite the fact that Council did not own Lot 10 they had trouble conceding that they also did not own Lot 11.
Soon after, when addressing a Council meeting I asked them to stop wasting staff's time and rate payers money pursuing the Rezoning and Reclassification of Albert Ryan Park and pointed out to them the whole situation was becoming an embarrassment to Council due to the fact that they did not own this land. Council however continued on with their pursuit until they had to finally concede that they did not own the land and reluctantly rescinded the motion on the 28th June 2016 .
During this period of time it was also discovered that Council had moved a motion in May 2015 to decommission the toilets at Albert Ryan Park. When the group Save Albert Ryan Park discovered this they kept pursuing the issue with the then Mayor Lindsay Brown to have a rescission on this decommissioning of these toilets and he gave the group an undertaking that he would do this after the next Council Election.
This issue was pursued over the next 12 months with senior staff admant that NO MONEY would be spent on the facilities and that they were identified for demolotion with instruction do do so. When the Recreational Open Space Strategy ROSS report was produced by Council it was clear that there was no funding allocated to Albert Ryan Park and yet $30,000.00 was allocated to Rotary Park Batemans Bay. I suspected an error had been made in the naming. On contacting Council and I asked a staff person where was Rotary Park in Batemans Bay only to be told that it no longer existed. Rotary Park had been on the Crown own reserve that was now occupied by the new Marina development and the playground and picnic facilities has since been removed. As such the $30,000 earmarked for the Park did in fact prove to be one of many errors identified in the document..
At a Council meeting on 24th October 2017 Clr. Phil Constable tried to raise in Urgent Business a Rescission Motion on Albert Ryan Park.Clr Lindsay Brown became quite agitated, the General Manager spoke to the Mayor Innes and the Mayor deemed this was not urgent. Lindsay Brown then texted one of the members in the Save Albert Ryan Park group saying that he would bring a rescision motion forward at the next Council meeting.
A motion was bought forward by Councillor Brown to the Council Meeting on the 14th November 2017 BUT there was no rescission motion on the decommissioning of the toilets on Albert Ryan Park. A meeting had been organised on the 8th November with the group and others supporting retaining the toilets at the park. Lindsay Brown admitted to them at that meeting that his intended motion did not include a rescission motion on the decommissioning of these toilets. The group satisfied however thought that “Lindsay would come through” and accepted his assurances that it would be all good on the day irrespective of the fact that an independent at the meeting was clearly advising that the motion, as written, was “pointless”.
At the Council meeting on the 14th November pressure was brought to bare to have a rescission on the decommissioning of these toilets included in motion. Lindsay Browns motion was worded only to acknowledge the ownership of and to return Lot 11 to the RMS revealing that the mistaken ownership issue had occurred due to a clerical error. At the time there was also clarification that the onus of maintenance of the park rested with Council and that the land was indeed Public Reserve as per a gazettal by Sir Roden Cutler. The Lindsay Brown motion also referred to Lot 9, 10, 11 and did not refer to Lot 8 (opposite) despite the fact that it had the same DP No. Lot 8 is situated across the Beach Road where the statue of the Octopus now resides. I pursued this and at a Council Meeting on the 28th November 2017 Lot 8 was then to be acknowledge in a revision of the motion.
Given my interest and attendance at a number of Council meeting before and after the purchase of the Bowling Club I am yet to understand when the purchase of the Bowling Club actually occurred as the dealings in Confidential around this period of time did not relate to the Bowling Club purchase – SO who moved and seconded the motion to purchase the bowling club site? And at what meeting did this occur as I am sure that the General Manager is not authorised to spend that amount of rate payers money without the Councillor’s consent and I know that at one stage Lindsay Brown stated that he conducted the negotiations and that the General Manager was dealing with the purchase – BUT should this have gone to a Council meeting and if so at what Council meeting did this occur?
WHY DID COUNCIL PURCHASE THE BATEMANS BAY BOWLING CLUB?
Did elements within Council at that time think that the purchase would gain votes for Lindsay Brown in Batemans Bay for the Mayors position?
Was the purchase to help out the Catalina Club financially?
Was the sale of the site called Albert Ryan Park to offset the cost of the Bowling Club?
Are there current negotiations between Council and the RMS in relation to Albert Ryan Park site?
Why were submissions called from the Community in relation to the use of the Bowling Club site whilst those large number of submissions appear to have been ignored?
Was the purchase of the Bowling Club site just to tie it up for future development?
If the staff from the ESC were not involved with work related to the Bowling Club site what would they be working on?
Why was the community not consulted on the demolishing of the Bowling Club building? This was a last minute addition to a motion regarding the Mackay Park Grant Application that saw no discussion or any public consultation.
When the final Recreation Open Space Strategy Report (ROSS) is finalised WILL Albert Ryan Park receive any funding for the upgrade of the park and the toilets?
As time passes many more community questions are added to those still remaining unanswered.
Cheers Trish H.