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A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) make their debut into the Council elections for 2021

Surprisingly for our current councillors attending the Public Forum session this morning they came face to face with a member of the A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) forum who clearly showed to any current councillor considering running in 2021 that there was a group that was well informed, well voiced and clearly well researched and focused on delivering for the community. It was clear from the start of the presentation (below) that the ABE Forum had met with the community, heard their concerns and researched the options and counter arguments in their well considered arguments in anticipation of any informed questions coming from the councillors. Sadly the only question forthcoming from one of the councillors was of banal pedantics around the term Community Centre as opposed to Community Hub or Community Campus with the bizarre inference that if the Community Hub or Community Campus at Hanging Rock was renamed to Community Centre then the community would be placated. The response from the A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) speaker was polite. It was also a heads up to the current councillors to take note of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE). Today Ms Bernie O'Neil presented on behalf of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) to the Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday 24 November 2020 opposing Agenda item CCS20/046 Lease of Bateman’s Bay Community Centre and in support of Councillor Mayne’s NOM20/007 Reclassification of land

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council this morning.

I am presenting on behalf of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open and inclusive government in our region. ABE expects that before governments, at any level, make decisions that will impact their communities, they will undertake broad and meaningful consultation, listen to and share expert advice, and proceed using a transparent decision-making process so that the community understands who makes decisions, when and why.

ABE has applied these principles to the issue of the Batemans Bay Community Centre (BBCC), which leads it to support Clr Mayne’s Notice of Motion to reclassify the land and reject the current lease proposal.

ABE notes the following aspects in support of this position :

1. The Eurobodalla community have been significantly impacted by both natural disasters of bushfire and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Expert advice tells us that strong community connections are a key to recovering from disasters such as the bushfires and COVID-19.

3. The Batemans Bay Community Centre is used by a wide variety of groups, including Meals on Wheels, and is an important facility contributing to community service, cohesion and integration. It has a central location in the Shire’s largest urban centre. No other facility offers the same utility as this Centre.

4. As late as May this year, Council was advising Community groups who use the Community Centre that it would remain available for their use until the new Batemans Bay Regional Arts & Leisure Centre (BBRALC) becomes available in May 2022.

5. The proposal for Council to approve entering into a lease with the preferred candidate is not consistent with Council’s previous advice to community groups. At the very least, Council should respect their previous commitment and allow community groups to use the Community Centre until the Regional Arts and Leisure Centre is open and fully operational.

6. The 1,000 strong petition received by Council on this matter is an indication of community wishes and needs. Genuine consultation that respects community views is good practice. The current lease proposal will undermine and disadvantage community groups, with Council effectively taking away key community facilities that enable community connections and services at a time when they are critically needed.

7. The proposed changes to the Batemans Bay Community Centre would be an indication of poor governance and lack of transparency which would set an undesirable precedent for future management of many other significant community facilities throughout the Eurobodalla shire.

8. We expect that under the current post bushfire and pandemic conditions Council will prioritise community well-being and recovery as a primary concern by actively supporting existing community groups and services. Council should facilitate community groups being able to plan and organise over mutually agreed extended time horizons, and allow community groups to get on with their important activities without any further disruption or unexpected shocks.

9. Council’s management of the Batemans Bay Community Centre is the antithesis of the community-focussed approach to disaster recovery embodied out in the NSW Recovery Plan (November 2016), which includes the following statement “Supporting self-help and strengthening the resources, capacity and resiliency already present within individuals and communities are the keys to successful recovery. Empowering communities to create their own solutions can improve overall social cohesion, and this is critical to sustainable recovery outcomes.”(NSW Recovery plan, page 14).

In the light of the above circumstances, which reflect lack of transparency and meaningful consultation, as well as being at odds with informed advice regarding effective post-disaster community recovery practices, ABE cannot support the proposal to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre and risk evicting the wide variety of community groups who currently use the centre. Instead, ABE supports Clr Mayne’s Notice of Motion to reclassify the site for the Community Centre as “community land”, in support of its important role in assisting post-disaster recovery efforts within the Eurobodalla Shire.

Thank you for your attention.

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