A little over a week ago, Byron’s Little Athletics group were proudly parading as part of the opening of the Shire’s new sports field complex in Ewingsdale.
Now they have been locked out of the centre – and all of their equipment is locked in – while the council’s lawyers scramble to finalise a usage agreement for the clubs. They have nowhere to practice – and nothing to practice with.
Little Athletics club president Tim Gotterson says he was given verbal advice – three times – that his group of 110 kids could start using the grounds immediately.
Council’s Phil Holloway, however, said no assurances were given that it would be free to use ahead of other groups. Mr Holloway told Echonetdaily he ‘made it clear to all user groups that the fields and facilities would not be used until sports field user agreements were in place.’
He did concede that Little Athletics ‘did bring some equipment on the site’ on opening day, and that Council offered assistance in its removal. ‘There was no permission given for the group to keep the equipment there indefinitely.’
Mr Gotterson told Echonetdaily that the sports group ‘moved all our gear to the new grounds on the understanding we could continue to use the grounds.’
Additionally he says the rugby team has taken over the use of their container at the old grounds ‘and the grounds are no longer adequately marked.’
With last week’s opening pomp and ceremony, the pressure is on the council’s general manager Graeme Faulkner and councillors to explain why, after two years, a usage agreement was not ready.
And why, more importantly, a solution cannot be arranged immediately for the interim.
A pro forma agreement, for example, could provide the necessary legal go-ahead for the clubs to commence using the grounds. But on that issue, Council staff won’t be budged.
‘We appreciate sporting organisations are keen to use the site,’ says Mr Holloway. ‘However it is unsustainable to have a situation where use begins without any formal agreement regarding the boundaries of that use.
‘It is not the way to manage a $17.5 million facility.’
Echonetdaily left messages with the mayor, who is currently in Sydney on state MP duties.
Deputy mayor Basil Cameron told Echonetdaily that the opening of the sports fields ‘was brought forward prior to the project being fully finalised.’
He says the minutes from the last Council meeting ‘make it clear that satisfactory management arrangements for the sports fields have yet to be put in place, noting the additional cost to the community.’
Last week’s Council minutes were confidential regarding the management tender and interim management of the Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex (BRSCC). Cr Cameron questioned why the opening had been brought forward by the mayor, given the user agreement had not been finalised.
Left to right is Little Athletics members Lily, Will, Tia and Jasper. Club president Tim Gotterson is in the background. Photo: Jeff ‘17 million reasons’ Dawson