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Presentation to Council: Dr Susan Mackenzie

Batemans Bay Community Centre potential lease - presentation to Council 27 Oct 2020 - read by Henk Roubos Mayor, Councillors I speak to agenda item 6 ( QON20/007) Re: Batemans Bay Community Centre- (Expressions of Interest in a Lease) Today Council meets to discuss a proposed leasing of the Batemans Bay Community Centre (referred to as the BB CC in the following). On behalf of Perfex, the 1,000plus 2019 Petitioners, and other concerned citizens, I speak here to oppose any consideration of removing the Batemans Bay Community Centre from Community/Council hands. Let me explain why. First, from the NSW Local Govt site: ( ‘As the sphere of government closest to the people they represent, councils work hard to create social cohesion and a sense of belonging for all members of the community….’ In light of this we would like to ask you: How does dispersing 120 odd community groups away from a centre bought and built with community effort, skills and good will, aid ‘social cohesion’? That move would seriously fracture community cohesion. It would disperse users who have long maintained a central identity by using the Community Centre and hosting significant activities in it. What if Council offices were in 7 sites? Would you see that as preferable to one site the Community could identify as ‘central’? It is, in this case, after all, a Community Centre. The potential loss of the Centre from Community hands first captured the concern of users. Now the wider community are coming to know what they will lose, and what it will cost them, and they are not happy. We are here today to confirm that concern, to note it growing even stronger and to address those concerns with you once again. More than a year ago, in early 2019, a petition was delivered to Council, signed by over 1,000 Batemans Bay residents. It requested Council to keep and maintain the Community Centre in Council hands, for affordable, relevant and accessible Community use, as it is now. Submissions to retain the Centre, its facilities and its services have also come from Not for Profit and social health groups such as Meals on Wheels, U3A, Probus, Impact Eurobodalla and individuals, as well as from us, Perfex. Letters of concern have come from Fiona Philips MP to both the Mayor and GM. A banner has been commissioned to highlight the issue and is presently being displayed around town, held by concerned group representatives and individuals.

The recent October 2nd rally at the Centre was well attended despite Covid, with speakers from major community groups. Regrettably, only two Councillors attended: Councillors Mayne and McGinlay. We commend them for their willingness to hear the views of the community they represent, and attend. Amenity Over 120 groups used the Centre last year. It has only been by Council management and the affability and helpfulness of the staff there that made this possible. We are glad to have the discussion re alternative venues because it is clear that nowhere else are there Council amenities that offer what the BB CC provides: a centrally located combination of amenities grouped in a way nowhere else in the town: · a good-sized kitchen, · freezer space, · sprung floor (unique to local Council venues), · level and ready access, · affordability, · easy parking · close proximity to services (Service NSW, Centrelink, Aboriginal Housing, AdultEd, etc) and the CBD · and, importantly clean and safe and accessible public toilets – there being none others at this end of town. We note too, that any previous alternative arrangements referred to have been for short-term events such as the bushfire emergency and elections, not for sustained periods, so are a poor comparison. Despite Council claims, nowhere else is as comparable in amenity as the Centre. It is not just the cost factor that concerns us. If the BBCC is leased and local volunteer groups need to move elsewhere, their administration time and processes will increase markedly in their need to negotiate or book with more venue sites- at least seven according to Council’s proposed alternative venues list, one being a non-Council body. (We note you have not included Mackay Park, which is just as well as, despite original plans for it to duplicate the BBCC, that has clearly not eventuated, with it now only supplying one small room and a kitchenette). As we see it, the Community Centre’s role should be as an adjunct to any assets the Mackay Park project purports to add to the general community, not a casualty of it. This is madness We need this place: for the nuts and bolts of community life, for our social well-being. And consider this: what if we are proved right and in five years’ time a new Community Centre is needed to cater for the increased population and its wider needs? Where will it be sited? Who will pay for it? Do you expect the energy and drive, the costs, goodwill and skills that built this one to come from the Community you take this one from? That is very unlikely. Demographics In this shire we have a disproportionately high demographic of over 60s (some 41% per the 2016 census) , and particularly in the Bay. Many community volunteers and much secure income for the Shire comes from this sector. Without the active and willing involvement of that older demographic to support their peers and the wider community, Council services would need to be increased - for instance in mental, youth, social health and transport services – with an increase for ratepayers, from our calculations, well beyond any benefits of taking the Community Centre out of community hands. *While the 2019 Population Projections by Planning NSW indicate that · the overall population of Eurobodalla is estimated to decrease in the next 25 years…. , · The number of people aged 65 and over is estimated to increase over that same time period Coupled with that, Batemans Bay has an unemployment rate of 9.9%, with 35.9% of workers working on a part time basis who also need social inclusion services. So, it is clear venues and facilities for an increasing older demographic and the under-employed will continue to be needed and, inevitably, increased to provide · meaningful activities, · social involvement and support, · community cohesion and if we are to · maintain a social environment that will attract visitors, investors and residents. As Elton John said: **“what do we have to do to make you change your mind” and so get back on the path towards the community trusting this Council once more, and truly believing you have our best interests at heart. We are NOT the enemy, but your own constituents whom you are elected to represent. We therefore strongly request that the BBay ComCentre remain in Council hands to maintain it as an ongoing affordable, accessible and useful community asset, to meet the present and future needs of an increasingly aged demographic, to, overturn the ‘Operational’ status of the Centre and return the Centre to ‘Community land’ status. Yours sincerely Dr Susan Mackenzie (President PERFEX) *

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