Presentation to Public Access Session 1 June 2021
Batemans Bay Bowling Club EOI
The first that most of the Eurobodalla community knew of the proposed Expression of Interest (EOI) for the sale of the bowling club site was when it appeared in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) last Saturday. I have also been advised this morning by a senior Council staff member that the intention to go to an EOI has in fact been well publicised – in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The last date is around three years ago. And yes, it’s in the Draft delivery Program and Operational Plan…on page 48 in small print with no indication of when the EOI is to be released. This is not good enough.
This is a Council that is living on borrowed time, making decisions that will be difficult for the new council, which will be elected in just three months’ time, to review or change.
Worse, this council has kept the whole Community in the dark about its intentions for this site. When a member of the public asked a senior Council employee during this month whether there were any talks with interested parties or whether this land was being considered for sale, the answer was no. Either there was a very quick change of heart at the Council, or the public was being misled. The community deserves better.
As the ad in the AFR says, this is a “true landmark opportunity”. The Eurobodalla community deserves to have its voice heard about the use of this iconic site. At present there is no public evidence of any analysis by the council of the best use of this site.
The council has not given us the information or the opportunity to make our views known. Are Council’s plans for the bowling club site the best option and in the best interests of our community? As the collective owners, we need to have our views heard, and be able to see and comment on any council analysis of the use of this site.
The site is currently in use as a depot for the construction of the Batemans Bay Bridge. I understand from the Beagle that the lease has now been extended until July 2022. All the more reason for any decisions on the Bowling Club site to be left to the new Council.
I note that decisions about the EOI will be made during the caretaker period – which begins in August 2021. In the local government sector in NSW, there are specific legal constraints placed on council general managers during the four weeks preceding the election day. However, in addition to those constraints, there are also broader ‘caretaker conventions’ that the Office of Local Government has advised should apply. One of those conventions is that, in the lead up to elections, “major decisions should not be made which would limit the actions of an incoming council.
The intent of the caretaker period is to allow the new Council to be free to make decisions on important issues without constraints from a previous Council. If the Council and the General Manager follow the spirit of the caretaker period regulation, no decisions should be made on this EOI until the new Council has been elected.
I also note in the EOI documents, that the Council has the right to withdraw the EOI at its discretion (clause 1.4). This expression of interest needs to be withdrawn so that the next council can make its own assessments of the best use for this site.
If elected, the Labor team is committed to:
- Having a thorough and independent analysis made of the best uses for the Batemans Bay site. This includes analysis of all options, ranging from sale to community uses for the site. This is to be made public.
- Having thorough consultations with the Eurobodalla community, and especially the Batemans Bay Community on the options proposed by the council.
- Work with the community to build a mutually acceptable plan for the land.
- Carry out the wishes of the community once we have consulted and come to an agreement.
The Eurobodalla community needs to be treated with respect by the Council. We do not see the respect we deserve in the way the Council is attempting to sell this important parcel of land. They do not respect the community they serve by keeping a veil of secrecy on their intentions, and they don’t respect their future Council colleagues by tying their hands in the dying days of this Council.