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A Mackay Park project update


In all the fanfare of the State Elections things have quietened down around the issue of the Mackay Park project. The only thing we have heard of recently is that Council remains steadfast in its determination to block the public from seeing the Business Plan they put up to the NSW Department of Sport. Meanwhile Council are going through with their decision to buy out the remaining lease term of the Batemans Bay Mini Golf . Council advise that the Mini Golf business currently occupies a portion of Crown Land that needs to be utilised to fully develop the proposed Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre. Council advises that while Council recognises the business is long established and recognised within Batemans Bay, it unfortunately cannot continue on the current site. Mini Golf has a lease from Council as Crown Land manager and the current lease expires on 30 June 2022 and that Council is currently undertaking negotiations with the owners about a range of options. In regards to the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site acquisition that still sits under a veil of disquiet an informal information request was made for a copy of the pre-purchase building inspection report. Council have since formally advised that there is no single inspection report that Council relied on. Council undertook various pre-purchase inspections over a number of years as well as commissioning relevant external reports adding that the building was inspected by the Council’s own engineers. A copy of the valuation provided to Council prior to the purchase of the Bowling Club in April 2016 was also requested to which Council responded that it does not release valuations saying that the vendors of the bowling club and Council independently commissioned valuations and that the valuations were only one part of the Council’s decision-making on this issue. On the understanding that the original grant application for the Mackay Park Aquatic Centre through the NSW Department of Sport had failed a copy of the letter sent by NSW Sport advising Council it was not successful in gaining the grant they had applied for was requested.. Council advised that there is no such letter simply advising that Council has executed funding agreements with the NSW Government totalling $26 million. This does raise the question of what happened with the much announced Grant Application to the NSW Department of Sport The last the community heard of this grant was at a Sunset Committee meeting on Feb 21st 2018 when the committee heard that Council was successful in reaching the second round of the NSW grant funding program for arts and cultural activities. They also heard that Council was awaiting advice from the NSW and Australian Governments in relation to the other grant funding applications submitted learning that on 15 February 2018, Lindsay Usher and Kathy Arthur went to Canberra to advocate and seek support for Council’s grant applications. They met with the Hon. Mitch Fifield (Minister for the Arts) and the Hon. Paul Green (Member of the NSW Legislative Council), both of whom offered to provide a letter of support as well as Mr Paul Trotter, Principal Advisor to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, MP, who assured Lindsay and Kathy that he would talk to the Chief of Staff. Mr Usher and Ms Arthur also visited the Australian Institute of Sport and spoke with Dion Russell, Head of Performance Operations, who offered to provide statistics on pool usage for their complex. The status of the grant application to the Federal Government is also unknown nor are the details of the application and of its accompanying business case. An informal request was also made for copy of the grant application and covering documents sent to the Department of Sport to support the application. In response to that particular request Council said "Council will continue to apply for grants towards projects that will benefit the Eurobodalla community. We will not make copies of grant applications available publicly because they contain commercial and other information that may provide advantage to competitors." This was there answer as well to the request for a copy of the grant application and covering documents to the Department of Infrastucture for the Federal grant of $25m Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis announced in October 2018 that $25M had been assigned to the Mackay Park project and invited Council to submit a full business case to the Regional Growth Fund for assessment. When advice was requested on the status of the application Council simply responded "The application is under review." A statement was requested regarding the Council's insistence to block access, by a community member, on three separate occasions, by way of two blocks and a request for review, prohibiting the NSW Department of Sport to provide, on GIPA request, the grant application and supporting documents of the failed grant application.Council was consulted by another agency regarding two access applications for information under the GIPA Act that were received by that agency. Council responded that "The agency was required to consult with Council under section 54 of the GIPA Act regarding release of the information. Council provided feedback to the other agency regarding the release of the information in accordance with relevant public interest considerations under the GIPA Act. The decision to release or withhold the information rests with the agency. A review by the Information and Privacy Commission is currently pending regarding the proposed release of some of the information under one of those applications. When asked for a comment on the costs to date of the Mackay Park project, understood to be in the vicinity of $4m dollars Council's response was that "The cost to date is not in the vicinity of $4M as claimed. Council took a loan of $4 million to allow the project to commence." When asked for a comment around the geotechnical report and its findings of the Mackay Park precinct in proximity to the Southern Option that justifies a staff member saying that the project will cost more than $51m dollars due to substantial foundation requirements Council responded "It is understood no such statement was made." When asked if Council could advise if the geo-technical drilling entered into the Bowling Club site as there was interest to learn what they have found in the ground by way of bricks and asbestos as the area prior to being a bowling club was filled with building materials from around the town Council responded "No, it did not." In regards to the RMS work on the Btemans Bay Bowling Club site it was noted that the RMS has removed the building however the original concrete slab remains. The question "Can you please advise if the RMS will also be removing that slab or will that be done by Council once RMS vacate the site? resulted in the Council response of "RMS is removing the slab." The survey results and feedback received via submissions and the Information Kiosks are now being compiled with a new concept plan addressing suggestions and issues raised being drafted ready for consideration and approval. Once approval of the concept plan is given then it can be accurately costed which should also then drive real figures on operational costs and projected costs. Incomes will still need to be speculated on projected visitation to the precincts facilities so the true figures of a business plan with evidence of community affordability will not be sighted prior for consideration before the project begins. Unfortunately the community will now be kept in the dark of any interim updates as Council have advised the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee that neither the Council's Director of Planning nor his staff will attend future meetings where representatives of the Fight for the 50m group are present acknowledging the intention of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee to keep their meetings open to the public.


#Community #BatemansBay #LeiParker #Opinion

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