A rapidly escalating protest movement is rising against Eurobodalla Council over their calling for Expressions of Interest to lease the Batemans Bay Community Centre. A strong turnout on Friday of 150 community heard speakers from Meals On Wheels, University of the Third Age and Perfex voicing concerns that they have been instructed to find new venues and vacate the community owned centre as Council wanted to lease it at market rates saying: "The expression of interest is about potential to lease the centre for community purposes that generate local economic activity, and market rental is proposed. Council has had unsolicited approaches from a number of groups interested in leasing the centre. A spokesperson for the newly formed Save our Community Centre group told the Beagle "Council says that the EOI process provides our community groups with the chance to put forward our proposal to Council against government agencies such as CentreLink, Housing and Headspace who can afford market rental." "Council has previously stated that when the Mackay Park Centre opens in 2022 the community can use the meeting rooms there at the same subsidised fee they enjoy now in their own community centre." "They promised "like for like" spaces in exchange for allowing us to even consider selling our centre. But little by little the Council has reduced the community space in the new centre and now offers a meeting room with an urn as a replacement for an entire Community Centre." "Adding insult to injury they have dishonoured their promise that "The BBCC will need to remain open to the community until the new Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (AALC) is constructed and operational." In that promise of May 2019 the Council also justified its actions of divesting itself of the Batemans Bay Community Centre by saying:
"Maintaining the existing facility would duplicate functions and add operational costs while removing potential sale or lease options, including the revenue arising from such. This would have the effect of inadvertently increasing the operational cost of the AALC and deprive that centre of a potential source of income, therefore compromising its affordability, including the theatre." The public meeting held on Friday saw only two of the nine invited councillors present to listen to the community. Noticeably absent was the Mayor, Liz Innes and the other members of her Community Action Alliance team being Jack Tait and Maureen Nathan. "The mayor and her colleagues stood on a party ticket of increasing economic development in the shire for the benefit of the entire community. Their promised vision at the last election was to build a Council you can rely on, one you can trust" the spokesperson said. "The Mayor and her team mandated that, if elected, they would insist that Council lives within its means and be much more responsive to community concerns.Now we face a shire wide debt of $15 million to build the new Mackay Park centre with the burden of millions to run it every year." "Our Mayor said she would stand shoulder to shoulder with her community during the election. Well on Friday she and her team of Tait and Nathan, who are also Batemans Bay councillors, were nowhere to be seen. Neither was the ex-mayor Lindsay Brown or James Thomson. We know Rob Pollock is away because he rang us to say he couldn't be there". "The Mayor should have been there. This is a very important issue. If only there had been a visiting football team at the rally, or a visiting Liberal party member so she could be in the photoshoot. She seems to have no difficulty photobombing those events. The least they could have done was offer their apologies like Phil Constable in Narooma did". Note: The Beagle has verified that the Mayor attendied a photo shoot with visiting Brumbies players the day before, and that Councillor Pollock is away. "The community has given council a 1000 signature petition. we have held a public protest during a time of restrictions and we have voiced, once again, our anger that Council insist on Moving Forward without listening or respecting its own community saying they can do what they like because we voted for them". "Councillor Jack Tait says that it is only the opinion of a noisy minority and that the silent majority support what Council decides. If that is the case then, with only fourteen votes in the last election, doesn't that mean the majority didn't vote for him. The same applies to Councillor Maureen Nathan who only got four votes. Both of them became councillors via Liz Innes' preferences. Yet these three have three of the nine votes in Council and these three call themselves Batemans Bay councillors. But on Friday they were nowhere to be seen". "We were heartened by the spirit of good will shown when a previous interested party withdrew their expression of interest to lease the building when it was revealed in the media that the community were going to be kicked out of their own Centre". "Any prospective lessee, if council goes ahead, will wear the immediate backlash that will stem from rolling community protests and media coverage" the spokesperson warned. "What we now have to do is wait for the Council to meet to vote on granting a lease and formalising the arrangement to remove the community from the community centre". "It will be interesting to see how the Councillors vote on the leasing and on the future of the Batemans Bay Centre ... moving forward".
Above: keep an eye out for these bumper stickers around the Bay, on cars, and on the windows of businesses indicating their support for the community demands to retain their community centre.