Marc Patten, President Shores United Soccer Club
On the evening of Friday 21 June, relations with Byron Shire Council and the Shores United Soccer Club sank to a new level. At 8.37pm, in the middle of the second half of a junior under-15 match at Tom Kendall oval at New Brighton, Council turned the lights out on the kids, stopping the match in total darkness. After a howl of complaints, the lights were turned back on some 15 minutes later.
Why did this happen? Well, council had decided that because Shores United no longer had a women’s team which plays Friday nights, the lights could just be switched off.
At no stage was there any consultation with the club prior to this council staff decision. The operation of the lights at Tom Kendall oval has been changed from an easy manual application, to a complex system where a text to a mobile number has to be sent to turn the lights on or off.
Again, at no stage was there any consultation with the club prior to this council staff decision. This was done I assume, to ensure that lights are not left on longer than necessary. I contacted the Byron Shire GM on four separate occasions last week re the lights. I left messages with his staff, but at no stage were my calls returned.
In practice, the system doesn’t work and there is a 17-minute delay from when the lights are ‘text’ off, to when they actually are off. This is not only annoying to some locals but will cost our small club a fortune in electricity that we aren’t using.
In reality, it amounts to yet another piece of council harassment with respect to the Ocean Shores Soccer Club and the long-suffering people of Ocean Shores.
You might be wondering why we don’t have a women’s team any more at Ocean Shores. The team, who had played junior soccer at Ocean Shores since they were small children, were forced to move to Mullumbimby because the club cannot ensure their safety, as the girls aged 15 to 18 had to undress and change on the field, in full view.
Despite numerous council promises, 15 years on, will still have no change rooms at Tom Kendall Oval New Brighton. I can’t tell you how many change room designs council have been emailed by our club, some as late as this season, all of which we have approved, none have ever been supplied.
In October 2008 the Green-dominated council headed by Jan Barham, promised the people of Ocean Shores that under the Byron Shire northern sports field strategy, they would be given ‘top priority’.
Well surprise, surprise, five years later not a thing has happened. After more than 15 years of ‘workshops’, ‘studies’, broken promises at New Brighton oval, Waterlilly Park and the latest red herring at Billinudgel, what do the people of Ocean Shores have with respect to sports fields?
Nothing and you aren’t going to get them either. What did you get? The council of Jan Barham, with some supporters still in this current council, did manage to pull the rug out on the kids with the sale of perfectly usable land, at Lot 107 Shara Boulevard.
We don’t have the benefit of a 20 million dollar sports complex like the one at Ewingsdale, or multiple fields like the smaller community at Bangalow, or the two fields, both with lights at Pine Ave Mullumbimby where incidentally, I was last week watching a match that finished at 10pm, lights on, no problem there.
The people of Ocean Shores have one undersized field with no change rooms, no seating and severe light usage restrictions. On this field we have to accommodate 170 players, 15 teams aged 6 to 15 and three teams of senior men.
We currently have match lighting at Tom Kendall oval after 15 years, however its usage is restricted in a way unprecedented anywhere in northern NSW and perhaps all of Australia.
Council conducted a myriad of studies into the wildlife and environmental impact of the lighting at Tom Kendall oval. I can tell you that ‘No significant issues were found from the months in question, April to September inclusive’, this information comes from the report itself.
Currently the match lights must be turned off by 8:30pm weekdays and 9pm Friday, even then, council breached its own policy by turning them off at 8.37pm in the middle of a match last Friday 21 June.
The club is not interested in pursing individual staff for this, as they acted only after pressure from uninformed senior council staff, who had failed to consult the club at any time.
Why is this happening you ask? It is happening because council staff are continually threatened with legal action from a handful of residents, some of whom do not even reside there on a permanent basis.
Sure we have had welcome assistance from individual councillors such as the deputy mayor Diane Woods and her team who continue to agitate for the people of Ocean Shores, but much, much more is required from all of council.
Tom Kendall oval is a sports field, one would have to expect that at some stage, sport is going to be played there. We are not having all night rock concerts that wake and frighten every living thing for miles around, like what we will soon have at Yelgun.
What we are doing is encouraging young boys and girls to be involved in sport at a time when alcohol and drug abuse is rife among young people and obesity is a national epidemic. Ocean Shores residents represent 30 per cent of the ratepayers of Byron Shire.
I urge you all to stand up and demand some long overdue sports facilities, promised so many times and neglected by previous and current council.