Last week’s Ballina Council meeting saw the councillors turn their backs on the Lennox community by authorising the sale of the Ross St blocks. This is despite widespread opposition from the community. The arrogant way the councillors ignored the community’s concerns with a ‘we know best’ attitude was a disgrace.
What was offered as a consolation can only be described as a con, given the council may reallocate the proceeds from the sale to other expenditure. Why sell land that is needed to provide future amenity in an already congested area? Council has industrial land and commercial property that could be sold to raise money to build community infrastructure. I haven’t received any emails or phone calls asking for this industrial land to be kept for ‘future amenity’. Yet there are over 1200 signatures on a petition calling for the sale of the Ross St blocks to be stopped, and for the land to be reclassified as ‘community land’.
As we approach the end of this council term and have a look at the projects that haven’t been delivered, I have concluded that Ballina Council is big on talk, but cheap on delivery. Councillors and management are exaggerating the virtues of their ‘commercial property investments’, while much-needed infrastructure remains under funded. What happened to the commuter cycleway from Ballina to Lennox; what happened to the much-debated ‘coastal walk’; what about our neglected pools, crumbling roads, and numerous plans for an indoor sports centre, etc? The money tied up in industrial land and commercial property should be used to build or maintain these community infrastructure projects.
The infrastructure delivery program for the next four years will not deliver any of these projects. Why? Because millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money is being redirected into commercial property investments. What does the community value more: low-yielding commercial property or its public swimming pools, cycleways, pothole-free roads? Hundreds of thousands of dollars are also being paid to ‘consultants’ to advise council staff on projects that will never get built. It’s time we allocated adequate funding to finish planned infrastructure projects that are only going to increase in cost as the years go by. At the coming election, vote for councillors who listen to the community’s concerns and deliver on infrastructure, rather than for councillors obsessed with empire-building and speculative property investments.
Cr Jeff Johnson