Dr Sue Mackenzie on Council's ill-considered and regrettable move to sell the Batemans Bay Commu

AUDIO: presentation from Dr Mackenzie and questions from Councillors 26th March 2019 : Under MOU with Eurobodalla Shire Council Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.read more http://bit.ly/beagleCC

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

On the 26th March 2019 Dr Mackenzie, PerfEx President, addressed Councillors during Public Forum requesting 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.

She told the Councillors "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.

Dr Mackenzie told the councillors "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 600 plus 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

"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," concluded PerfEx President ,Dr Mackenzie

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