Ballina Shire Council yesterday voted unanimously to reclassify two of its waterways from public land to operational land, a move that during the exhibition period saw more than a 100 submissions from concerned residents.
Most were concerned that the reclassification of the waterways could see the introduction of fees and maintenance costs.
But their fears were dismissed when Cr Robyn Hordern explained to the public gallery that Council did not require a change in the classification to impose charges.
The status quo is that if Council wanted to implement fees, they could, and the reclassification would not have any bearing on that, she said.
Of the 116 submission in relation to the reclassification proposal for Ballina Quays canals and Banyanda Lake, it appeared most expressed concerns that a reclassification would create fees.
‘We have done extensive workshops,’ said Cr Ben Smith.
‘Concerns have been brought up by the residents about maintenance. This is not about maintenance. It is about reclassification. I don’t see the fees or the maintenance changing because of our decision today.’
Cr Susan Meehan said that she was sympathetic to the people who live Ballina Quays and Banyanda Lake. ‘They have built in good faith and in compliance with Council’, she said. ‘I see the plan of management would be good with some improvement down the track. I do believe we need to go ahead at this stage.’
The question arose about the use of pontoons and jetties on the waterways which, while they are on public waterways, are private constructions. One Council staff member commented that ‘you wouldn’t just turn up on someone’s pontoon and have a barbecue’.
A discussion centred around public liability and the possibility that Council may need to be notified of private insurance policies at a future time.
Cr Hordern said that a modified plan of management was definitely a future option but Council already had the power to enforce fees.
‘I know there is a lot of fear in the community,’ she said. ‘Council could resolve to charge [fees] regardless of the reclassification. We need to do this now. We need to make this alteration.
‘A more specific plan of management would give reassurance to residents.’
Cr Keith Williams said he supported the reclassification. ‘People had objections to the reclassification, but not one had anything to do with the reclassification [per se]. There is a lot of supposition in the submissions.’
Mayor David Wright also spoke about the fees and maintenance costs. ‘We could charge a fee now,’ he said. ‘But we don’t.’