Welcome to this week’s editorial, Imagine yourself arriving in Batemans Bay for a Sea Change. The area is stunningly beautiful, the golf course is perfect, fish are aplenty and there is much to explore. But you left your family and friends behind to make this change. You left the role you played in their lives and you left the groups you had joined and the social company you kept that added a level of richness to your life. You are advised by neighbours that there are many local social groups you can join and are directed to the Batemans Bay Community Centre. You discover that this Centre is the hub of the town with many groups using the hall and meeting rooms. You learn that the original centre was built in the main street on land gifted by the community with the old hall built by the community using gifted materials and labour. Interested in local history you learn that the new centre, now on the edge of town, was built by the Council in compensation for their having sold the original land and building under the misapprehension that they owned the title rather that simply being trustees. You discover that the new Community Centre is a vibrant, well used place that provides a venue for dancing, martial arts, the University of the Third Age classes, community group meetings and most importantly accommodates a purpose built commercial kitchen to provide Meals on Wheels for an ever expanding clientele in a region that celebrates having the highest number of over 60’s in the State. But there is a misery you feel when you arrive for your first shift as a volunteer and a sadness when you ask about dance classes as you discover that once again the Council has other plans for the community owned building. The building, the hall, the meeting room, the commercial kitchen, are now up for lease by Council to the highest bidder. Most likely it will be leased to a government community focussed agency such as Centrelink or HeadSpace. You learn that the Council has now advised all of the groups including Meals on Wheels to find and hire alternate venues. The only explanation Council offers is that they can do as they please and that the revenue from the lease will go towards the running costs of the new Mackay Park pool and hall when it is opened in 2022. Council generously advise that there will be a meeting room available in the new building. In the meantime Council is pushing ahead and the community centre see its doors closed to … the owners of the building being THE COMMUNITY The most unfortunate aspect of this is that the building is classified as Operational which means that Council can do as it wishes without community consultation. The other, and most disappointing aspect of this despicable intent of Council is that the councillors are neither advocating nor showing any support of the community in their outcry at the gross manipulation of Council to commandeer and sell off a community asset to satisfy a fiscal bottom line. until next—lei
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