The old Aussie saying that ‘Every bloke needs his shed’ could be ringing in the ears of Ballina councillors at a committee meeting next Tuesday.
The council’s Commercial Services Committee will be discussing development options for a parcel of land at 54 North Creek Road in Ballina.
The land, owned by the council, comprises an area of 1.346 hectares and is zoned “General Industrial”.
Located at the south eastern end of the site is an old weatherboard dwelling, that up until recently was being let at $340 per week.
The council voted in November last year to investigate the development potential of the site, with a view to creating more industrial lots for the Southern Cross Industrial Estate.
The council committee must decide whether to develop the land and sell it off for industrial use, or agree to the Men’s Shed group’s request and forego part of the revenue that could be could be utilized.
Ballina Community Men’s Shed team leader Graham Eggins has appealed to the council to help provide ‘an adequate facility if not one of the best in Australia’.
The group has asked that the council fully develop the site, remove the existing house, and grant freehold title on a section of the land to the group.
Mr Eggins argues that freehold title would help Men’s Shed attract funding, or provide equity for a loan should it be required.
‘This would however require Ballina Shire Council to either give or heavily discount the desired developed block in favour of the Ballina Community Men’s Shed for $150,000, which is all that we could reasonably offer,’ he said.
Alternatively, Mr Eggins said the council could lease the land to the group for a peppercorn rental for a period of at least 25 to 30 years.
‘We realize that either of these alternatives represent a strong commitment by council to the Ballina Community Men’s Shed,’ Mr Eggins said.
‘Over just a few weeks we have been able to obtain about 400 signatures on a petition asking Ballina Shire Council to allocate for us a more suitable parcel of land for the development of a Men’s Shed.
Mr Eggins said the project was not just to meet the needs of ‘a few old men’.
He said the Men’s Shed, currently located at Fishery Creek, catered to men of all ages, with activities ranging from metalwork, electronics, computers, woodwork model building, art, music and other interests.
‘Many voices such as (former Victorian premier) Jeff Kennett of Beyond Blue are voicing the importance of the men’s shed movement,’ Mr Eggins said.
‘There are an increasing number of people moving here who are looking for a men’s shed.’
Mr Eggins said the group was hoping for a positive decision from the council so that it could apply for grants under the National Stronger Regions Grant program, and a Clubs NSW grant, both due by July 31 this year.
‘We would therefore need an answer from council ASAP for this deadline to be achieved,’ he said.
‘The members, who are all volunteers, have been working hard on this project for four years now.
‘Without land, and without it soon, the great gains made so far may be lost. Together we can do it.’
Meanwhile, in a report to the council by Civitech Consulting Engineers, the consultants have advised that the subject land is appropriately zoned for industrial use.
The consultants examined a number of options, but have recommended proceeding with a four lot subdivision of the land, with acoustic work, filling and the removal of vegetation.
‘This option maximizes the development potential of the site and is considered an efficient use of appropriately zoned and located industrial land,’ the report says.
Ballina council staff have recommended that the council lodges a development application to undertake a four lot subdivision of the site.
But in respect to the Men’s Shed proposal, staff want councillors to decide.
‘Finally, in respect to the Men’s Shed, as this report relates to Council’s commercial activities, the preference is not to allocate land at a discounted price or at a peppercorn rent as the aim of this committee is to maximize returns to the community,’ the report from staff says.
‘Ideally this type of decision should be made in an ordinary council meeting where council is considering matters from a whole of community perspective.
The Commercial Services Committee meets on 19 May. If councillors decide to further examine the proposal from the Men’s Shed group, a recommendation would likely be prepared for the council meeting towards the end of the month.