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Presentation: Leasing and sale of Batemans Bay Community Centre - Lei Parker




You represent the community. You ran on election promises as Independents and as Eurobodalla First, Community Action Alliance and Community Voice Eurobodalla.

The community voted and here you are performing your duties which requires you to provide effective civic leadership to the local community.

And here you are today, once again, with the community expecting that you carry out your duties of providing effective civic leadership on behalf of the community who elected you.

In order to arrive at this point in regards to the Batemans Bay Community Centre it is essential to make mention of the journey so far.

Prior to, and after, the acquisition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club there have been many promises made to the community in regards to the provision of community spaces.

In 2015 the community were encouraged to put in submissions of what they would like to see at the Bowling Club. There were submissions for galleries, workshop spaces, exhibition spaces, cafes and a sundry of other ideas including a heated pool.

But these submissions came to nothing as the building was condemned. Hope still remained that the site might accommodate the Arts and promised heated pool but it was clear from the start that Council staff had other ideas.

At this point it is important to differentiate between Councillors and Council staff. Much of what lies ahead had little to do with councillors “providing effective civic leadership to the local community”.

The leadership was in fact coming from the staff and their vision. Most often the councillors were left in the dark and the community barely aware until it was too late.

The next step happened very quickly. The “Option” to locate the arts and pools in the Southern section of Mackay Park brought with it a blow to the community as they realised, in one vote, that they were to lose their 50m pool and the promised community spaces.

At no point had there been any mention to the community of the loss of the 50m pool nor had there been any mention of the sale of the Batemans Community Centre.

When cornered the Council response was that the community will be provided like-for-like space in the new facility and access to the new Arts facility hall. In time the community began to realise that this was not at all going to be a like-for-like deal.

The community have now discovered that Council staff are pursuing a long game that will see them lose their community centre. First by leasing, and then by sale, once the new Mackay Centre is opened.

The General Manager has been quite clear that the community must vacate the Community Centre and use the rooms provided in the Mackay Park Centre to ensure its financial viability. It has also been clearly identified by staff that sale proceeds from the Community Centre are destined to the running costs of the new facility.

The Community have been duped however. They were led along by promises of Like-for Like and will be delivered, at best, a meeting room with an urn to replace a vibrant, well used, much enjoyed centre that was purpose built with community funds.

The Batemans Bay community raised funds in the 1950’s to buy the land for their first Community Hall in Orient Street. They donated materials and labour and built a centre that lasted three decades. Council then sold that centre and land from under the community claiming they owned it where in fact they did not and were only trustees. However the ruse was discovered and the community outcry demanded that the Council of the day build a new centre. Not in Hanging Rock where Council staff suggested, but in Batemans Bay. Where it stands today.

Council staff then determined to classify the land allocated to the new Batemans Bay Community Centre Operational.

They now advise that because it is classified as Operational they are not required to consult any further with the community and can do as they please in terms of leasing and selling.

Staff …….

The recommendation before you, as representatives of the community who voted you in to represent them, is from staff.

The recommendation is not from the community. In fact the community wasn’t consulted. Just told. “Move out, we are now leasing this”.

These are Staff who come and go. They are employed to serve the community. They are tasked under the delegated authority you have given the General Manager to carry out YOUR bidding.

But these are Staff who want to move your community around as if they are pieces in a jigsaw. And these are staff who control what information is known to you, and to your community dismissing issues such as the leasing and sale of the Community Centre as being an Operational matter that is all too menial for councillors to concern themselves with.

You, as councillors, already have before you a petition of 1000 signatures. You, as councillors, have countless letters and submissions. There have been two very well attended community protests – and today, once again, your community is appealing to YOU to act on their behalf to represent them, requesting that they retain the community centre they own, use and enjoy.

When voters elected you they elected Independents, Eurobodalla First, Community Action, Community Voice and heard such mantras as

“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you”

We won’t just listen to our residents’ reasonable concerns. We will take notice and we will take action.”

The reality, for some time now, has been otherwise.

Please admit to yourselves, before you proceed any further, that the community, your community, will be the poorer for the loss of their community centre.

Please admit that the alternate venues offered are little more than inadequate compromises.

Please admit that the original promises made to the community prior to Mackay Park Option 1 did NOT advise the community of the future loss of their community centre or their 50m pool.

The community has been left out in the dark this whole journey. It now also appears that councillors too have been left out of the grand vision held by staff.

The staff however were NOT elected.

You were.

And today you might choose to represent those who voted for you and once believed that you would stand to represent them.

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