A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) Presentation to the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on Thursday 17 December 2020 Supporting Councillor Mayne’s Notice of Motion NOM20/009 Regarding Bateman’s Bay Community Centre
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council and the community this morning.
I am presenting as Co-Convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open and inclusive government in our region. ABE expects that before governments, at any level, make decisions that will impact their communities, they will undertake broad and meaningful consultation, listen to and share expert advice, and proceed using a transparent decision-making process so that the community understands who makes decisions, when and why.
ABE has applied these principles to the issue of the Batemans Bay Community Centre (BBCC), which leads it to support Clr Mayne’s Notice of Motion NOM20/009 to rescind Council’s recent decision to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre and instead maintain the centre as it is currently being operated; with a review of those operations and functions being undertaken after the completion of the Batemans Bay Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre.
ABE notes the following aspects in support of this position:
- The Eurobodalla community have been significantly impacted by natural disasters of bushfire, drought and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that Council’s community service and support responsibilities are now more important than ever.
- Expert advice tells us that strong community connections are a key to recovering from disasters such as the bushfires and COVID-19, and the decision to lease the Batemans Bay Community Centre will impact a wide range of community groups, including Meals on Wheels (reference our previous submission on this subject).
- The Batemans Bay Community Centre is an important facility contributing to community service, cohesion and integration. It has a central location in the Shire’s largest urban centre. No other facility offers the same utility as this Centre.
- The public forum presentation on 8th December by Kim Sinclair, the CEO of SEARMS, Council’sapparently preferredlessee for the centre, provides important new information which further strengthens the case for not proceeding with the lease of the Batemans Bay Community Centre at this time, as the process has been characterised by a lack of transparent communication.
- Ms Sinclair’s presentation indicated that SEARMS would not be paying a commercial rent for the Centre, and would also be sub-leasing parts of the centre to other groups. Neither of these aspects were mentioned in the Expression of Interest specifications advertised by Council on 18 September 2020. If they had been, it is possible that other potential not for profit lessees would have come forward, including community groups currently using the centre, such as Meals on Wheels who have publicly indicated they would have considered the proposition of leasing the centre if they had known it could be at a non-commercial rate. All potential lessees should have been made aware if the ground rules for the process had changed so that they could make their decisions in a fully informed way.
- If Council must go about leasing a community facility in order to gain additional income, it should apply the principle of “minimal community disruption”, and lease one of its other underutilised facilities that will impact fewer community groups than the current lease proposal for the Batemans Bay Community Centre.
- Importantly, the decision to lease the Batemans Bay Community Centre prior to the opening of the Batemans Bay Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre runs counter to advice previously given by the Eurobodalla Shire Council General Manager to community groups that they would be able to use the Batemans Bay Community Centre until the new Aquatic & Leisure Centre was complete and operational. This lack of adherence to formal Council advice is poor administrative practice, dishonest and undermines community trust and cohesion in these troubled times.
- Under these complex circumstances, ABE considers that Councillor Mayne’s recission motion provides a useful “circuit breaker”, which allows all stakeholders to reassess their positions and as well as providing a definitive timetable over which decisions and any required adjustments can be made. It provides a welcome element of certainty in very uncertain times and this will assist community recovery.
- In particular, ABE welcomes Clr Mayne’s suggestion in NOM20/009 that a facilitated engagement process with our community should be undertaken regarding this issue, in order to identify a way forward which helps build and enhance our community on the South Coast.
The above circumstances reflect poor administrative practice, lack of transparency and meaningful consultation, and are at odds with informed advice regarding effective post-disaster community recovery practices. As a consequence ABE supports Clr Mayne’s Notice of Motion NOM 20/009 to rescind Council’s recent decision to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre, and instead maintain the centre as currently being operated; with a review of those operations and functions being undertaken after the completion of the Batemans Bay Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre. This is an opportunity for elected Councillors to prove their commitment both to the community and to good public administration.
Thank you for your attention.
A Better Eurobodalla