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Patricia Hellier - 13 March 2018

Patricia Hellier made the below comments at the Ordinary Council Meeting 13 March 2018.

Patricia Hellier north Batemans Bay-Thank you Mayor Innes I am here today to address my concerns to the article that appeared in Fridays Bay Post 9th March 2018 in relation to the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. The article contained words to the affect that "lease it or lose it": "Council on Bay Bowlo. The article also stated that a consortium of Business People had offered to purchase this site in February for the same price that the council had paid in April 2016.

As many will be aware I was one of those at the time that support Councils purchase of this site even though I did not support the price paid. The purchase created a huge buzz and excitement within the community and finally there appeared to be an opportunity for this site to be used by various community groups providing Council could "get it right".

Promises were made which has lead to great disappointment and it has created divisions within the community. I have attended a number of meetings to listen to the view of individuals from within the community and I have spoken on a few occasions here in this Council Chambers on this issue.

I am very disappointed to say the least that we are nearing the 2 years anniversary of the purchase of this site and the site still remain idle.

Over the last 2 years I have placed submissions and spoken in Council. Late 2016 I suggested that the Clubs Auditorium could be used over the school holiday period for child care as there were many working parents looking for a facility to cater for their school aged children, and the bowling greens were an idea area for a jumping castle equipment etc at the time the Mayor asked that I give my views to the Council which I did.

I have been informed that the Club was "inhabitable" and yet when my husband and I attended the open day in June 2016 the auditorium appeared to be in good condition at the end of the inspection a staff person told my husband and myself that in a couple of years the building would be gone and yet Council continued to ask the community for submissions on this site.

Statements have been made in relation to the air conditioning units etc. and yet now it would appear that the RMS may lease the land and building, can someone please explain to me a rate payer of this shire how can the building on one hand deemed uninhabitable and yet we now are being told that the RMS will be using this building.

Why did Council engage a firm of Consultants from Queensland who apparently deemed that this site to be a "gate way'' to the Eurobodalla which I believed caused the focus from the original ideas for the purchase of this site to be changed.

Why has this project got to this point where now it appears that there is a suggestion that the NSW State Government MAY reclaim this land and has this been a case of BIG BROTHER always being in control and us the rate payers of this shire being their pawns? And don't forget Councillors this purchase was made by the same group of Councillors who told the Rate Payers of this shire the great need for a 21.6% Special Rate Variation then turned around and borrowed a reported $2million.

Why was the offer from a Business consortium to purchase this site not bought to a Council meeting? Perhaps in light of everything this offer should be revisited.

Should the State Government reclaim this land  hopefully the Rate Payers of this shire will be compensated to a figure of $3.Smillion as it is now rumoured that this Council  is incapable of dealing with  a project of this size.

There has been a lack of transparency over this issue from the day it was purchased  and the purchase price was incorrectly relayed to the Rate Payers and Residents of this shire via a Media Release dated 29th April  2016  by the previous Mayor who stated the facility could  include a new aquatic centre, an arts cultural cinema building, conference an event space, tourism accommodation, restaurant and cafes, senior living and the integration of existing sporting fields into the future development of this precinct.

Just recently I have spoken to two proprietors in Caravan sales out of this area, one person told me how disappointed they were when the Caravan and Camping show did not go ahead in 2017 due to the fact that the Council was doing maintenance on the oval. The second proprietor told me that the Caravan and Camping Show would not be returning to McKay Park due to the fact that this area and grounds would no longer be available as the land was earmarked for "other purposes". Council the facts are these shows bought a large amount of tourism into this shire.

Councillors why are we the rate payers of this shire made to feel we are continually being kept in the dark with a continued veil of secrecy surrounding this council.

Thank you

Council's reply

Council’s purchase of the former Bowling Club site did create excitement about the potential for a range of development outcomes for the community, as this strategic purchase resulted in all of the Mackay Park precinct coming into public ownership. At the time, Council asked the community for their views on the future uses of the site and precinct. A range of community, recreation and infrastructure uses were suggested.

Council considered all of the views put forward at that time and the views put to us over the last two decades to develop a list of preferred development outcomes, including a new aquatic and recreation centre, an arts and cultural facility, conference and event space, tourist accommodation, residential accommodation, restaurants and cafes, gateway visitor centre and the integration of existing sporting fields into the future development of the precinct.

We are now delivering on the major community components and have secured a significant amount of funding from the NSW Government towards construction of a Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre in the precinct. Council will soon be seeking expressions of interest from the private sector and organisations to deliver the other preferred uses, all of which will have
significant benefits to Eurobodalla residents, tourists and the economy.

Regarding the use of the former Bowling Club building, investigations undertaken by Council found that restoring the building to a standard fit for community use, would cost about $90,000 upfront and about $86,000 annually for repairs and renewals as well as an estimated $120,000 a year in operating costs. Council is currently in negotiations with the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) in
regard to the use of the former Club as a site office during the construction of the proposed Batemans Bay bridge. The RMS is determined that the site is suitable for their uses and will be responsible for any works to make it fit for purpose.

Council engaged Otium following an open tender process. The Request for Quotes prepared by Council before engaging a consultant, outlined the key development outcomes for the area, as agreed by Council following community engagement on the preferred uses for the precinct. There has been no change to the list of preferred uses for the site. Otium’s advice to Council was that two of those elements, the aquatic and the arts facilities, be combined in one building on the southern part of the precinct, leaving the northern area (the former Bowling Club) available for the other preferred uses.

In relation to the potential for the NSW Government to “reclaim” the former Bowling Club site, as noted above, Council is in negotiations with the RMS about leasing the site to them. Whilst these negotiations are underway, there is no expectation that the compulsory acquisition provisions of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 would be enacted. I fully expect a positive, mutually agreed outcome to be reached on our negotiations.

During your submission, you referred to an offer from a business consortium to purchase the former Bowling Club site. Council did receive a letter and responded to the author, advising that any proposal to sell the site must be via a competitive process. The group were invited to submit a proposal when a Request for Expressions of Interest to develop the site is issued to the market.