Dr Brett Stevenson, a spokesperson for A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) made a Public Forum presentation ahead of the Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday 8 December 2020 opposing Agenda item CCS20/054 Lease of Bateman’s Bay Community Centre.
In his address he said "I am presenting on behalf of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open, accountable 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 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, drought and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
2) Today’s agenda paper is a repackaged version of CCS20/046 from the Council meeting of 24th November, with the same recommendation for consideration by Councillors. ABE rejected that recommendation, and today’s agenda paper has not presented any additional evidence which would alter this conclusion.
3) The most recent public consultation mentioned in today’s agenda paper occurred back in July 2020, when Headspace wisely opted not to proceed with leasing the BBCC. This extended hiatus in consultation indicates that Council has not really been genuinely engaging with the community for many months now, which is poor practice, particularly in such fraught times as the present.
4) Today’s agenda paper has been padded-out by the inclusion of a number of tables which purport to provide comparisons of various venues across a series of basic attributes via means of a “tick the box” approach, which conveniently ignores critical site aspects such as location, proximity to other facilities, availability of parking, surrounding noise levels and specialised features in the community centre, such as a sprung dance floor. These tables are intended to provide the illusion of false equivalence, and do not really provide a meaningful comparison of facilities.
5) The paper mentions the underutilised capacity at other comparable venues, but makes no mention of how this spare capacity matches with the timetabling requirements of current existing user groups at the BBCC. The paper is silent on whether unwillingly-relocated groups will be able to schedule their existing activities at suitable timeslots for their community members at these alternative venues.
6) The paper trivialises the legitimate concerns of a variety of community groups by characterizing the proposal’s impact as an “inconvenience” for these groups. This does not reflect comprehensive community consultation.
7) The paper is also silent on the proposal’s impact on the availability of public toilets in the Bateman’s Bay CBD area, which is also about to lose the public toilets at the Visitors Centre. Council is failing to provide the most fundamental of public amenities, to the great detriment of both local community members and our tourist visitors, many of whom are incapacitated or aged.
8) If there really is a surfeit of underused comparable Council facilities, as this agenda paper indicates, then why not consider leasing one of these other “underutilised” facilities to an interested party, rather than proceed with the current proposal where 15 current regular users and many other periodic users will have their community activities severely disrupted just to allow 1 new group to use the BBCC. Why couldn’t Council apply a principle of ‘minimal community disruption” in its choice of which community facilities it should lease? Instead Council is evidently placing the chase for more dollars over community needs.
9) What confidence can community groups have in Council’s assurances that Meals on Wheels will have ongoing access to the BBCC when Council’s previous undertaking regarding ongoing community access to the BBCC until the opening of Batemans Bay Regional Arts & Leisure Centre (BBRALC) in May 2022 has been disregarded?
10) The proposal is at odds with both the NSW State Recovery Plan (which states that “Supporting self-help and strengthening the resources, capacity and resiliency already present within individuals and communities are the keys to successful recovery”), as well asCouncil’s own Eurobodalla Bushfire Recovery Action Plan, which states that Council will “Assist the community to restore confidence and strengthen resilience. This is achieved by coordinating activities to rebuild, restore and rehabilitate the social, built, economic and natural environment of the Eurobodalla community”.
11) This is a time when the community needs all the assistance, support and co-operation it can get, yet Council is basically telling the community that “It knows best”. In this case, it does not.
"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 asks Councillors to similarly reject the lease proposal.
"Christmas is a time for giving, not taking away."