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Presentation: Dr Sue Mackenzie to Council March 26th 2019

AUDIO: presentation from Dr Mackenzie and questions from Councillors Under MOU with Eurobodalla Shire Council Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia more Notes for Speech to Council 26th March 2019 : Dr Sue Mackenzie NOTE That that these are fuller notes than presented to Council as time was limited for the presentation

The Community Centre to ‘possibly be sold or leased’ …says Council.

I come here today to request Council, on the local Batemans Bay community’s behalf, to keep the present Batemans Bay Community Centre as an ongoing, functioning and well-maintained community resource and asset on its present site.

The Community Centre was opened on 30 June 1996 and has operated as a community centre since then (so we wonder when it became Operational land, why and how?).

It is a low profile but well supported and utilised asset in a quiet and accessible part of town with plenty of parking, is on ground level, with clean and safe public toilets, the only ones on this end of town, variable room sizes with variable uses, and a carpark easily sectioned off for markets and other events.

Its importance was amply demonstrated on the weekend when the mass of people going to the Concert in Mackay Park were in town and it was Polling Day. It would have been untenable and chaos to have the polling at Mackay Park on the same day as the concert, yet at the Community Centre it was quiet and orderly, with ample parking.

Losing the Community Centre is of great concern as the new proposed facility at MacKay Park does not appear to replicate or improve on the Community Centre, where there is a dividable hall, large and small meeting rooms, a rentable office and a commercial scale kitchen (relied on heavily by Meals on Wheels who will not be accommodated in the new centre), and flat surrounds.

  • There is a youth café;

  • dance classes;

  • a food and crafts market;

  • social outreach events,

  • activity classes, and more..…

U3A, with its 600plus members, has several bookings a week there (including ad hoc talks and its registration day) and would happily have more if there were internet and wifi facilities. They have, along with at least one other organisation, asked to explore the possibility of leasing the venue outright (email to Mayor 22Feb 2019 from ross Thomas, President of BBayU3A).

The alternative council facilities (Mackay Park football pavilion, Malua Bay Hall and the Hanging Rock football/convention centre) do not have the same range of facilities in the one place and are quite isolated from other services and amenities, whereas the present community centre is near Baylink, the Govt Services office, Adult Ed, Katungal, the Museum, the carwash and has various commercial entities within easy walking distance.

I note too that this part of town badly needs people moving in and out to keep its vitality, especially now Target is closing down. With Dan Murphy’s moving in nearby, it is even more essential to discourage negative or alcohol related behaviour by making this a well-lit and active area.

While it may seem premature to raise the topic of the fate of the BBay Community Centre before any concrete plans have been formulated for its disposal, and before community consultation has been pursued, we feel that it is urgent and essential that Council understand the value local residents give to this facility before proceeding to include its sale or lease in any negotiations or consideration in regards to the costings and updated business case for Mackay Park Indoor Aquatic and Arts Centre.

It is essential we have a locals’ Community Centre on the CBD side of the town, within walking distance of the town and major services; a locals’ precinct to complement the one in Mackay Park, not compete with it or be swallowed by it. One people can wander into…

As yet, we are not seeing an effort or inclination by Council to retain the Community Centre, built with funds raised by the community to replace an earlier community asset, and we request that you do so.

In fact, it appears Council’s focus is quite the opposite. In The Council response to QUESTION ON NOTICE by Councillor Mayne REPORT TO ORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL, HELD ON TUESDAY 26 MARCH 2019 it states: ‘The BBCC is owned by Council and is located on operational land, meaning that it can be sold or leased should Council resolve to do so.”

Unfortunately, this implies Council would be willing and is able to do what it likes with the Centre without community approval or consultation, regardless of the fact they are elected to represent us, not the Council itself.

This statement could also be interpreted as a threat, or at the least, a heavy handed perspective in regard to the community you are there to represent.

The Mackay Park venture is not a stand-alone project, which many are unaware of.

In response to a question on notice by Councillor Mayne:

“Council has not made a decision to sell the existing BBCC. It has been identified that it could possibly be sold or leased, to offset construction and/or ongoing operational costs associated with the proposed Aquatics, Arts and Leisure Centre…..” Quotation from council response to QUESTION ON NOTICE REPORT TO ORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL, HELD ON TUESDAY 26 MARCH 2019

Council staff have said that selling it was always an option and has been well publicised, yet few people seem to be aware that we are likely to lose this Community asset that spreads out our community resources across the town quite equitably. And is functional, useful and readily accessible.

Three concept plans for the new Mackay Park facility have recently been available for community consideration. However, in those concept plans we cannot see matching, let alone more meeting rooms, and there are limited and out of the way catering facilities.

As there is no final plan yet for Mackay Park, assurances and descriptions of equivalent meeting room and kitchen facilities (such as in response to the question on notice put forward by Councillor Mayne) are premature, to say the least.

No fee structure has been indicated to ensure community affordability. Nor were there any dimensions available on the concept plans to assess size and scale of rooms.

The Mackay Park proposed facility, magnificent as it is, and as wonderful as it is likely to be, appears to be focussed on ‘glamour’ activities and entertainment rather than on the pragmatic use for everyday community activities.

Moreover, the issue of a LOCALs accessible Community Centre on the major town population side and site, out of tourism traffic, is still to be resolved.

I am not alone in my concerns. A petition, supported by PerfexInc, and to be presented to Council in due course, has attracted several hundred signatures to date and many comments of encouragement have been received.

The bricklayer who built the centre was aghast; as was the woman who had her wedding reception there. Several young adults reflected on their time at the youth café and urged us to keep advocating to keep the Centre for youth’s sake. Indigenous folk bewailed losing a local centre for their kids.

‘112 community organisations’ used the Centre in 2018 and if there was wifi and good internet and electronic facilities it would be used even more.

Many people have come up to me to thank me for instigating this move because:

  • They cannot see the need for the Centre to go and consider Council has not provided solid reasons or assessments to justify that view

  • There is both a community fondness for the centre for its utility and its history, particularly as it was built by community fundraising and reflects a commitment to a central accessible site for locals.

I am often asked: Who ‘owns’ it and how will the community be compensated for their funds and good will as:

  • Council gifted the land;

  • Community raised the money for the building;

  • Council staff and maintain it to serve council’s and community needs;

  • Council receives the income of it…

We now ask:

  • When was the site made ‘operational’ land and what were the details and dates of the community consultation process that agreed to that?

  • What is the identified social impact of the proposed sale (not just monetary impact)?

  • How will this be measured?

  • How will it be measured against any alternatives?

  • Why is the sale of the Centre necessary?

  • What specific monetary impact will the sale of the Centre have on an updated Mackay Park business case?

There is also a rumour that council are considering moving the Museum to maximise saleability of the site. Could the community have clarification on this point please?

Overall it would seem an ill- considered and regrettable move to try to move the activities and patrons of the BBAy Community Centre wholesale into the proposed Mackay Park facility or into other council buildings. We urge Council to keep, maintain and improve the Batemans Bay Community Centre, as part of an ongoing locals’ community precinct, along with the Museum, on its present site.

At times of breaking into the future, the glory of the new vision can narrow the vision while appearing to broaden it, and overshadow those who keep this town ticking over all year.

We need both the Batemans Bay Community Centre AND the proposed Mackay Park Indoor Aquatic Centre and Theatre/Arts Centre.

Some history of the Batemans Bay Community Hall: ‘Approx 100 years ago the Batemans Bay Town Hall & Community Centre, School of Arts Memorial Hall stood in Orient Street Batemans Bay. This hall was built on land that was gifted to the community and was the constructed with effort and contribution of the community. Peter Neilson remembers how the old favourite hall that had its own block and another at the back were sold by the Council of the day. Peter writes: "And in a round about way the council got the opinion that they owned the hall and the land. The council decided they would build a community centre in its place at Hanging Rock but during meetings with council and the community I suggested that the community centre must be built for Batemans Bay in Batemans Bay and it was decided that it would be built where it is today.

"It was decided during this meeting that the Memorial Hall and its second block on the river side, after it was sold by council, that this money should pay for the community centre for Batemans Bay." "So as I have said the community centre belongs to the Batemans Bay community and to no one else. "Now it’s being suggested that council want to sell the Community Hall which does not belong to them and of course whatever they sell the community centre for they would take the money from the Batemans Bay community…..." PNielsen JP

A sample of community comments:

‘Given our very heavy dependence on the Community Centre and the limited range of affordable, suitable alternative venues for our activities in the Eurobodalla shire, what happens to the Centre is of key importance to us. And while I can understand that the option of selling the building may be an attractive way of raising revenue for the Council, I do not believe that this would outweigh the benefits to be gained by the local community by keeping it available for their use.’

Kind regards, Ross Thomas (President U3A)

..from the Beagle:, from an indigenous contributor, says:

  • Does community sentiment count for nothing councillors? It's not just the swimming community that is unhappy with the current plans - there are many, many others. What will happen with the youth café in the community centre for the Koori children? They will not be walking across the highway to a much smaller venue. Please rethink. Aunty Ruth

And another:

I agree with you that we must keep the community centre. I was amazed to hear that they would sell off the centre as they haven't put into Mackay all that we thought would be there! Alan Russell Sunset Committee/ Meals on wheels

  • The Community Centre is a valuable and well used asset. Our group dance there for three hours one day a week, and there are several other dance groups that use the hall. The well equipped kitchen is also well used. Meals on Wheels pack and distribute their meals from the centre and have a very large freezer room where they store their frozen meals. Where are they supposed to go? The meeting rooms are also well used, and there are also public toilets available. I think they are the only public toilets at that end of the town. Parking is never a problem. Why is this council so keen to destroy most of the public amenities in town? The 50 metre swimming pool, the mini golf, and now the Community Centre.

  • …. ‘It is not old. It is less than 25 years old and more than adequate to meet community needs. Needs that would most certainly not be met by the ridiculous new McKay Park facility that appears to disregard all community needs, least of all a 50m pool.’ Top cat

  • ‘Councillors may well have voted but on what information was there decision arrived at? Where is the business case and the expert advice about aquatic and auditorium infrastructure along with the numbers to prove the decision was sound?’ Jeff de Jager


Ad hoc notes

Locals Precinct

Rather than lose this facility, built by community funds, we would like to see the Community Centre remain and the area made into a locals community precinct.

Ideally the whole blank area (BigW’s ?sites) would make a lovely Peoples Concourse, with cafes and shops under and plazas amongst attractive accommodation to bring vitality, beauty and ‘sharing space’ – something the Bay is very short of.

$51 million is a hefty budget and, as yet, no updated business case has been made available to the public to test costings or practicality. The Otium ‘business case’ was touted as a concept plan business case, with no apparent revised business plan yet consolidated or available.

Though, ‘Council has engaged with a range of user groups of the BBCC (including the U3A) prior to the design stage and again in conjunction with NBRS Architecture to review the three concept plans’, requests for certain facilities such as suitable meeting rooms of a suitable number and format, related to submissions and feedback, have not been demonstrated in the three concept plans to date, especially in regards to ready access and a large usable kitchen, a decent sized gallery and arts cafe.

Meeting rooms on first floors preclude the major demographic who are likely to use the place – the over 60s (almost 40% of our demographic) though we are told there is a lift.

U3A could use the centre up to 40 times a week if it had good internet and wifi and remained financially accessible. And it is certainly well-used. Even today there is a notice up there for another organisation sending a class elsewhere because it cannot get a time in the centre.

At a recent meeting with the Mayor and two senior staff, there seemed a stubborn resistance to keeping the Community Centre – maintaining it will add to the cost of running Mackay Park. However, as these are two separate enterprises, how is it that they are co-joined?

Q:Where will money come from for the facility’s operation and maintenance?” A:‘The money will come from Council’s existing budgets. Detailed operating costs will depend on the final design. There is also potential for new income streams from the lease or sale of the existing community centre and visitor information centre to meet any increase in ongoing costs, as well as opportunities to progress the development of the former bowling club site (currently in use by NSW Roads and Maritime Services as a construction compound for the new Batemans Bay bridge).’

There is a growing perception that Council is leaning towards developers and tourists. This is unfortunate as they were elected to represent the local community, and so we are asking that it demonstrate a clear focus for the year-round community by keeping and maintaining this viable, accessible and affordable asset.

True, people from north of the River will drive past Mackay Park to access the Community Centre, as they do now. They may be the ones more likely to use the Mackay park facility, though they will have to cross highway traffic lanes and deal with high volume tourism traffic in holiday times, which are already creating distressing delays and congestion, to get there.

Email to Mayor Liz Innes

From: Sue Mackenzie

Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2019 2:48 PM

To: Liz Innes

Cc: Ross Thomas

Subject: Meeting

Dear Liz,

thanks for your time and attention yesterday.

I hope the discussion was helpful to you in conveying the depth of feeling users of the community centre feel and its role in ‘year-round community’.

Rather than lose this facility, built by community funds, we would like to see the Community Centre remain and the area made into a locals community precinct.

We/Perfex Inc are passionate about having a Centre that shows the strong Creative strand in the Batemans Bay Community and in no way oppose the idea of the Performing Arts Centre proposed for Mackay Park.

We just do not see why we have to lose the present Community Centre, which caters for such different (but overlapping) groups of people in the community, and is so much more accessible… and it was built by community fundraising!! (Peter Nielsen J.P. of Tuross was very involved with its creation and can give a fuller history)

The alternative council facilities (MackayPark football pavilion, Malua Bay hall and the Hanging Rock football/convention centre) do not have the same range of facilities in the one place and are quite isolated from other services, whereas the present community centre is near Baylink, the Govt Services office, Adult Ed, Katungal, the Museum, the carwash, cafes and various commercial entities within easy walking distance.

I note too that this part of town badly needs people moving in and out to keep its vitality, especially now Target is closing down. In my mind ideally the whole blank area (BigW’s ?sites) would make a lovely Peoples Concourse, with cafes and shops under and plazas, amongst nice second-story accommodation to bring vitality, beauty and ‘sharing space’ – something the Bay is very short of.

We look forward to seeing plans with dimensions to allow us to continue our discussion as to replicable space, but the issue of a LOCALLY accessible Community Centre is still to be resolved.

We hope Council demonstrates a clear focus for the year-round community rather than the perception of leaning towards developers and tourists as it seems to be now.

Dr Susan Mackenzie PerfEx President

#Opinion #BatemansBay #Council #LocalStateFederal

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