The depth of ignorance on the part of the Council is breathtaking in its stupidity.
by Chris Sweeney Will I go? I, like everyone else who attended the meeting at the Batemans Bay Community Centre last Friday morning, faced this decision and decided yes, it was important be there, despite the pandemic, despite being in the demographic most at risk and despite the fact that Batemans Bay is full of visitors.
Why? Because the Batemans Bay Community Centre is a vital part of the fabric of our community.
The decision to lease the Community Centre is bureaucratic one. The council can make more money out of a lease. What I find particularly offensive about council’s response to community concerns is their constant repartee which suggests that it is somehow “giving” to its community by “allowing” community members and their volunteer organisations to “use” the centre. Let me be clear....as the Course Coordinator for University of the Third Age, I book a significant number of council venues. I know that we pay a substantial amount of money for the use of those venues, just not enough to satisfy the money grabbing bureaucrats who are making the decisions. However, not only do our over 600 members pay rates to the Eurobodalla Council, which to my way of thinking, entitles them to use council facilities, but everyone in our organisation is a volunteer. When you start to consider the thousands of hours, which our organisation alone contributes to the health and well-being of a considerable portion of the population in the Eurobodalla region, then council’s attitude is just plain ignorant. The council gives community organisations a 10% discount, but then so do a number of other community groups in the shire that are lucky enough to have their own buildings.
The Eurobodalla Council’s mantra seems to be: Why make so much fuss, there are other venues.
While there are other council venues, the Batemans Bay Community Centre is the only central, affordable, large, readily available, multi-purpose, well maintained and easily accessible venue in the region, particularly if you happen to be retired and living on a fixed income. If you cannot drive, or you live centrally in a retirement facility so that you can access services, then it just makes sense to put as many activities as possible in that facility, within easy reach. The decision to lease it, and then make community organisations pay for the privilege of using their own centre, at market rates, illustrates a depth of ignorance on the part of the Eurobodalla Council which is breathtaking in its stupidity.
I should point out that council has two other large venues in Batemans Bay which are problematic for community organisations that require regular use. Hanging Rock is often unavailable during the year. It is much larger than the Community Centre and therefore attracts functions like the Caravan and Camping Show. End of year exams are also held there and of course it serves as an emergency hub. These are all quite necessary and reasonable functions but it does limit how that building can be used. The only other large venue is MacKay Park which is now closed.
Community organisations save the Eurobodalla Council an enormous amount of money with the services they provide. It goes without saying that if the council had to step in and do what we do, they would be broke. The contribution that community organisations make is well documented and is worth millions to the council. Let’s add the pandemic into the mix. We are now in a situation where people have to social distance if they want to continue to live their lives with any degree of normality. As a result, venues such as the Batemans Bay Community Centre have become even more important. They allow larger groups to meet in a safe environment and to feel secure.
Is it just that the Eurobodalla Council is so far removed from its people that it cannot work all this out or it just doesn’t care? If you can answer yes (to either question) then remember that we need councillors who understand the nuts and bolts of this community. The ability to operate in a way that provides easy access and a safe environment for community organisations to reach the communities they serve the everyday glue which helps many people to remain active, to keep their brains working and to enjoy life.