Editorial Nov 29th 2019

Welcome to this week’s editorial,

Back in 2012 Eurobodalla Council decided it needed more money. They couldn’t put up rates that were already skyrocketing along with water and sewer fees so they decided that they would sell of public reserves.

Up until the last decade or so Council have demanded of developers that they provide green space within their subdivisions for the social benefit of those who will live there. Our shire is full of these public reserves that link one area of a town to another, link houses to the river, and provide a natural space to enjoy, to explore and to discover all of the critters that call the reserve home.

But Council needed money and they devised a plot to employ a consultant to drive a round with a list of all the reserves and determine which ones were ‘surplus to use’. This was assessed by observation of human activity in the reserve at the time of the drive-by.

The next step Council employed in its underhanded intentions to sell of public recreational reserves was to list the properties identified in a report to Council and refer to them vaguely by address and using Lot and DP numbers. While Council may have informed immediate neighbours, offering up opportunities for them to buy the land the wider community had no idea. In February this year Councillors Mayne, McGinlay and Constable heard of the proposed sale of Pretty Point Reserve, a popular open space designated by subdivision for the Pretty Point community to enjoy a kick of footy, a safe runaround and a potential site for tables and a shelter. Next thing they hear it is ‘surplus to requirements’.

There was a strong sense of Déjà vu for those who stood on the same lot in 1995 with a busload of councillors who swore, on site to a similar group of concerned residents that Council would NOT be selling the public reserve. Then ten years later, when requested for a statement on Council's possible intent in selling the Pretty Point Public Reserve Council formally responded saying:

A letter from Council in 2005

Pretty Point is just one of many reserves that were earmarked for sale by Council along with public reserves in Sth Durras, Broulee, Tuross Head and Maloneys Beach. The number of remaining Public Reserves that Council plan to sell off is currently unknown.

Council explain their intentions as saying the blocks of land are better off sold to return revenue to the public purse and that the cost and responsibility of maintain these green spaces is a burden. They suggest that rather than have a local neighbourhood park residents can drive to larger parks that they will commit to keeping. They say they will use the sale of the public reserves to pay for the maintenance of these regional facilities. A super playground instead of a local swing, a large mowed field instead of a local bit of mowed grass to tumble on an the Botanic Gardens to explore rather than exploring the green space down the street. Their economic rationalists advise that they need all the money they can and that maintaining public spaces is an overhead best removed. Sadly the economic rationalist have the ear of Councillors.

Last Tuesday’s Council meeting heard from residents of Sunshine Bay who pleaded with Council not to go ahead and subdivide and sell a public reserve. The councillors were advised that it was a well loved, well enjoyed public reserve full of wildlife and that there was no reason to sell other than to make money. The Councillors listened yet voted for the sale.

Mayor Innes, Clr McGinlay and Clr Mayne were defeated 3-5 by Clrs vote of Nathan, Brown, Thomson, Tait and Constable and the land will now be bulldozed and sold off providing narrow access for path. Staff stamped the DA approved within hours of the vote thereby preventing a rescission motion.

This decision is a turning point for our other communities waiting in the wings to argue to retain their own public reserves destined to be listed for sale in the near future as each comes before council

Most disappointingly the outcome for Sunshine Bay came down to just one vote. The vote of Clr Phil Constable who surprised many in the gallery and those watching via Live Streaming. In February this year Clr Constable along with Mayne and McGinlay (below) met with members of the Pretty Point Community to hear their concerns around Council's intent to see a public reserve.

Above: Pretty Point Reserve looks like bread and jam to a desperate council looking to fill the gapping hole of the Mackay Park swimming pool project

Clr Constable once showed empathy and encouraged them to persevere (Video 7:05 below) , leaving the community with the opinion that he intended to support them when their reserve sale comes before Council; as will Broulee and South Durras that are also earmarked. It now appears he has a change of heart in regards to selling Public Reserves.

VIDEO: Public meeting at Pretty Point, Malua Bay over Council's intention to sell a public reserve open green space Feb 10th 2019

Last Tuesday he heard from the community, he listened to two presenters, yet not ask any questions and voted with Nathan, Tait, Thomson and Brown to subdivide and sell the public reserve. None of them asked the community speakers any questions either. Their body language said it all .. “done deal… next”.

Just one vote, one empathetic vote. And now a community will lose more natural habitat than it can afford. The reserve in question has been part of the central Sunshine Bay reserve corridor for the nearly 30 years. Just one vote it needed from a Councillor elected to represent the community and not the staff. Until next Lei