Jeff Johnson, Ballina Shire councillor
Despite the looming threat of Council mergers in the northern rivers, Ballina Shire Council continues to divert ratepayer money into commercial property developments and acquisitions. This is despite an acknowledged community infrastructure funding shortfall of over $30 million. It’s not good enough to say that the funding of an indoor sports centre is dependent on grant funding while Council continues to spend money on ‘strategic’ commercial property.
This comes down to a matter of priorities. Does Council need to purchase additional properties to consolidate existing commercial holdings, or should this funding (and staff time) be directed towards delivering much needed community infrastructure?
Council is in the process of determining its budget priorities over the next few years and I’m afraid that the usual line of ‘we’ve got no money’ continues to be repeated when it comes to funding infrastructure, but when the Commercial Services division suggest purchasing additional properties, there seems to be money available. Every dollar diverted into Council’s increasing ‘investment’ portfolio is another dollar that won’t be spent on local infrastructure. Furthermore, a future ‘merged’ council could look to sell these properties with no guarantee that the proceeds would be spent within Ballina’s existing boundary.
Ballina Council needs to change its strategy and place a higher priority on delivering much needed community projects such as the indoor sports centre, the Lennox to Ballina commuter cycleway, and the refurbishment of our public pools.