Last week Ballina Shire Council advertised redevelopment of the Wigmore Arcade and carpark, which could cost over $10m, and would certainly stretch council finances. It is not surprising then that the debate about the Ross St land sale at last Thursday’s council meeting centred around what could be done with the money from the sale, rather than how important the blocks were for future amenities of the area. Six out of ten councillors and the mayor voted to go ahead with the sale of the land at Ross St, Lennox Head, against the wishes of 1,200 local residents and seven community groups. These councillors obviously considered commercial issues more important than the local community’s wishes.
During the debate the possibility of using the $1.3m from the sale to develop plans and start the process for a new Lennox surf clubhouse was raised. Work on the surf clubhouse is much needed, but surely the councillors were aware that, with $40m worth of other properties that could be sold, the money to start the new surf club could have been found without selling the Ross St blocks.
The draft Delivery Plan 2012/16 available before last Thursday’s meeting mentioned only $11,000 for the Lennox SLSC; clearly a new Lennox surf clubhouse was not a council priority before the meeting.
I feel that the issue of the surf club has been raised to placate the concerned local residents, following the public outcry about the sale of the land. I am also concerned that the issue of the surf club clouded the debate at the council meeting on whether the sale was to go ahead. I was surprised that the councillors seemed to be influenced by this, when the money could be found elsewhere, and when the real issue was whether the land should be retained for local community use.