Welcome to this week’s editorial . Council should be like a grandfathers axe in that while its head may have been replaced a few times and its handle replaced more often it remains “Grandfathers Axe” that takes pride of place beside the wood pile. There are many in the community who have been around long enough to see all the comings and goings of elected councillors, general managers, administrators, senior council staff and the hundreds of indoor and outdoor staff who have retired or moved on. The Beagle editor has watched it all very closely for thirty years. In time you come to realise that Council is a Grandfathers Axe in as much as policies, the law and the Local Government Act are slow ships to turn around and mostly outside of the reach of Councillors and Council staff. It is only the small detail that changes. Council and Councillors are left with the menial duties of selecting what colour and size axe shaft and what type of axe head based on the budget at hand. The problem we have is that presently we have a pine axe handle that has no curve and a muck-metal head that will neither cut nor take sharpening. Yes, we have an axe but it is wanting and is not cutting wood, nor the mustard for the community. Let’s look at a recent statement by Council’s Director of Planning, Lindsay Usher. Mr Ushser says “the possibility of the Community Centre, the Batemans Bay Visitors Centre and the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site all being sold or leased has always been flagged in plans to develop the aquatic and arts centre at Mackay Park.
“We are looking at incorporating the functions of the Community Centre and Visitors Centre into the new Mackay Park centre,” he says.
“There are potential benefits on two fronts – it minimises costs and makes services more effective and it means there is the potential that we can generate income from those other sites and that money can go towards Mackay Park. What Mr Usher and the Council have failed to do however is to ask the community if they agree. You see the Community Centre is also a Grandfathers Axe. Built in Orient Street over 100 years ago on land donated to the community the Batemans Bay School of Arts Hall was very much community owned and serve the community well until the 1960’s when it was handed to Council in TRUST.
Above: 1960 Government Gazette 12th August with Council to be TRUSTEE
In the decades that followed this information was lost and next it was discovered that Council was setting about selling the hall and the adjacent block of land saying the community could have a new one at Hanging Rock. The community protested severely and forced Council to build a new hall where the current one stands with the proceeds of the sale of the community owned blocks of land. Council reluctantly gave in and built the new Community Centre which should be the end of the matter. By rights that building and land should remain Community Owned under TRUST. However now we have Council once again thinking it owns the land and can sell or lease the site offering the community in exchange. In the meantime it is reassuring that Mr Usher says those decisions and discussions are still some time away and that the community will continue to have access.
“Council is not going to dispose of those until we are able to provide an alternate site at Mackay Park, this will be tied to the development and opening of those new facilities.” Until next Lei