ABE Presentation to Council 17/12/20

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:

  1. 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.

Bernie O’Neil

Co-Convenor

A Better Eurobodalla

ABE Presentation to Eurobodalla Council 8/12/20

A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) presentation to the Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday 8 December 2020 opposing Agenda item CCS20/054 Lease of Bateman’s Bay Community Centre

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council this morning.

I am presenting on behalf of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open, accountable 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 reject the current lease proposal.

ABE notes the following aspects in support of this position :

The Eurobodalla community have been significantly impacted by both natural disasters of bushfire, drought and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Eurobodalla community have been significantly impacted by both natural disasters of bushfire, drought and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Today’s agenda paper is a repackaged version of CCS20/046 from the Council meeting of 24th November, with the same recommendation for consideration by Councillors. ABE rejected that recommendation, and today’s agenda paper has not presented any additional evidence which would alter this conclusion.
  • The most recent public consultation mentioned in today’s agenda paper occurred back in July 2020, when Headspace wisely opted not to proceed with leasing the BBCC. This extended hiatus in consultation indicates that Council has not really been genuinely engaging with the community for many months now, which is poor practice, particularly in such fraught times as the present.
  • Today’s agenda paper has been padded-out by the inclusion of a number of tables which purport to provide comparisons of various venues across a series of basic attributes via means of a “tick the box” approach, which conveniently ignores critical site aspects such as location, proximity to other facilities, availability of parking, surrounding noise levels and specialised features in the community centre, such as a sprung dance floor. These tables are intended to provide the illusion of false equivalence, and do not really provide a meaningful comparison of facilities.
  • The paper mentions the underutilised capacity at other comparable venues, but makes no mention of how this spare capacity matches with the timetabling requirements of current existing user groups at the BBCC. The paper is silent on whether unwillingly-relocated groups will be able to schedule their existing activities at suitable timeslots for their community members at these alternative venues.
  • The paper trivialises the legitimate concerns of a variety of community groups by characterizing the proposal’s impact as an “inconvenience” for these groups. This does not reflect comprehensive community consultation.
  • The paper is also silent on the proposal’s impact on the availability of public toilets in the Bateman’s Bay CBD area, which is also about to lose the public toilets at the Visitors Centre. Council is failing to provide the most fundamental of public amenities, to the great detriment of both local community members and our tourist visitors, many of whom are incapacitated or aged.
  • If there really is a surfeit of underused comparable Council facilities, as this agenda paper indicates, then why not consider leasing one of these other “underutilised” facilities to an interested party, rather than proceed with the current proposal where 15 current regular users and many other periodic users will have their community activities severely disrupted just to allow 1 new group to use the BBCC. Why couldn’t Council apply a principle of ‘minimal community disruption” in its choice of which community facilities it should lease? Instead Council is evidently placing the chase for more dollars over community needs.
  • What confidence can community groups have in Council’s assurances that Meals on Wheels will have ongoing access to the BBCC when Council’s previous undertaking regarding ongoing community access to the BBCC until the opening of Batemans Bay Regional Arts & Leisure Centre (BBRALC) in May 2022 has been disregarded?
  • The proposal is at odds with both the NSW State Recovery Plan (which states that “Supporting self-help and strengthening the resources, capacity and resiliency already present within individuals and communities are the keys to successful recovery”), as well as Council’s own Eurobodalla Bushfire Recovery Action Plan, which states that Council will “Assist the community to restore confidence and strengthen resilience. This is achieved by coordinating activities to rebuild, restore and rehabilitate the social, built, economic and natural environment of the Eurobodalla community”.
  • This is a time when the community needs all the assistance, support and co-operation it can get, yet Council is basically telling the community that “It knows best”. In this case, it does not.

In the light of the above circumstances, which reflect lack of transparency and meaningful consultation, as well as being at odds with informed advice regarding effective post-disaster community recovery practices, ABE cannot support the proposal to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre and asks Councillors to similarly reject the lease proposal. 

Christmas is a time for giving, not taking away.

Thank you for your attention today.

ABE Presentation to Eurobodalla Council 24/11/20

A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) presentation to the Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday 24 November 2020 opposing Agenda item CCS20/046 Lease of Bateman’s Bay Community Centre and in support of Councillor Mayne’s NOM20/007 Reclassification of land

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council this morning.

I am presenting on behalf 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 to reclassify the land and reject the current lease proposal.

ABE notes the following aspects in support of this position :

1. The Eurobodalla community have been significantly impacted by both natural disasters of bushfire and flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2. Expert advice tells us that strong community connections are a key to recovering from disasters such as the bushfires and COVID-19. 

3. The Batemans Bay Community Centre is used by a wide variety of groups, including Meals on Wheels, and 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. 

4. As late as May this year, Council was advising Community groups who use the Community Centre that it would remain available for their use until the new Batemans Bay Regional Arts & Leisure Centre (BBRALC) becomes available in May 2022.

5. The proposal for Council to approve entering into a lease with the preferred candidate is  not consistent with Council’s previous advice to community groups. At the very least, Council should respect their previous commitment and allow community groups to use the Community Centre until the Regional Arts and Leisure Centre is open and fully operational.

6. The 1,000 strong petition received by Council on this matter is an indication of community wishes and needs. Genuine consultation that respects community views is good practice.  The current lease proposal will undermine and disadvantage community groups, with Council effectively taking away key community facilities that enable community connections and services at a time when they are critically needed. 

7. The proposed changes to the Batemans Bay Community Centre would be an indication of poor governance and lack of transparency which would set an undesirable precedent for future management of many other significant community facilities throughout the Eurobodalla shire.   

8. We expect that under the current post bushfire and pandemic conditions Council will prioritise community well-being and recovery as a primary concern by actively supporting existing community groups and services. Council should facilitate community groups being able to plan and organise over mutually agreed extended time horizons, and allow community groups to get on with their important activities without any further disruption or unexpected shocks.

9. Council’s management of the Batemans Bay Community Centre is the antithesis of the community-focussed approach to disaster recovery embodied out in the NSW Recovery Plan (November 2016), which includes the following statement “Supporting self-help and strengthening the resources, capacity and resiliency already present within individuals and communities are the keys to successful recovery. Empowering communities to create their own solutions can improve overall social cohesion, and this is critical to sustainable recovery outcomes.”(NSW Recovery plan, page 14).

In the light of the above circumstances, which reflect lack of transparency and meaningful consultation, as well as being at odds with informed advice regarding effective post-disaster community recovery practices, ABE cannot support the proposal to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre and risk evicting the wide variety of community groups who currently use the centre. Instead, ABE supports Clr Mayne’s Notice of Motion to reclassify the site for the Community Centre as “community land”, in support of its important role in assisting post-disaster recovery efforts within the Eurobodalla Shire.

Thank you for your attention.

NSW Local Government Elections deferred to 2021

The NSW Government has announced that, as a result of the Covid-19 virus, local government elections across the state will be deferred from September 2020 to September 2021.

This doesn’t mean that the work of A Better Eurobodalla stops.


We are a community forum dedicated to having more open and inclusive local government in our region. So, our work will continue as we talk to community members about what is important for them and bring those issues to the attention of our elected representatives on Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Recently we have suffered through the terrible bushfires of the summer of 2019/20, and now we are living with Covid-19 in an area with severely limited hospital facilities and in a community which is only just starting to recover from the impact of the fires. This underscores the need for an open, accountable and competent local government which can help our community overcome these shocks.

The federal and state government bushfire reviews have now occurred, their reports have been released, and we will be monitoring how our governments respond to the recommendations contained in these widely informed, in-depth analyses.

There is also a very active ‘One Hospital’ campaign taking place in the Eurobodalla. This campaign is attempting to hold the state government to its commitment to provide a new Level Four hospital in our area. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted that we have no dedicated intensive care facilities anywhere in the Eurobodalla local government area. Find them on Facebook to support this campaign.

At the same time, the NSW state government has recently undertaken community consultation regarding the proposed Moruya Bypass, and we will be monitoring future progress on this issue.

The above issues cover local, national and international concerns that matter to us. A Better Eurobodalla believes that local government has an important role to play in taking the concerns of its citizens to state and federal governments and fighting for this region.

Better Eurobodalla would like to hear your views on these and other issues that matter to our community. We would like to know what is important to you so we can take the collective community voice to our local government representatives and ask them to act on our behalf.

Please tell us what you think and let us know.