It was a sweet result at Ballina Shire Council’s October meeting, for developers at least, with support for some long-delayed projects.
Unusually for Ballina, the whole meeting was over by lunchtime.
Crs Nathan Willis and Sharon Parry were absent, with Cr Jeff Johnson joining the meeting via Skype.
Old restaurant to be demolished at Shaws Bay
The long-running dispute over what to do with the site at 23 Compton Drive East Ballina was resolved with council agreeing unanimously to allow the demolition of the old restaurant at Shaws Bay and rezone the land, with a view to the owner lodging a new DA for a dwelling on the site.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader said the position of the council was, ‘If we don’t rezone this property, what will we do with it?’
She said she was satisfied that community concerns had been addressed, with the steps adjoining the property to remain open to the public and in council ownership, vegetation losses to be addressed and the building height reduced from 8.5 to 6 metres.
Cr Ben Smith said he had general concerns about gradient and stability of the site, ‘but given technical reports it looks like that ticks the boxes.’
Cr Keith Williams said he was disappointed that the site could no longer be used as a refreshment house, but ‘at the moment it’s an eyesore, this is the best outcome we can achieve for this site.’
He said the new building would potentially complement all the other ‘wonderful work we’re doing in Shaws Bay. We don’t need a burned out derelict building sitting in the middle of that’.
Council books in the black
Accountant Geoff Dwyer gave councillors a presentation on the state of their finances, noting that despite the impacts of COVID-19, Ballina’s accounts were in good health.
He said the financial statement showed no mis-statements or irregularities.
In terms of profit and loss for the year, the overall result showed a $25.3 million surplus ($17 million lower than last year, despite $3m in additional rates).
Mr Dwyer said Ballina Council’s cash and investments totalled $93.5 million.
Mayor David Wright thanked him for his report, saying ‘You’re always welcome when there’s good news!’
Rural function centres
Council endorsed proposed amendments to the Ballina Local Environmental Plan relating to function centres in rural areas, which include 14 days per year for the use of these venues for weddings and similar events, rather than the existing 51.
Cr Johnston supported this change, but said monitoring and compliance remained a problem.
Council staff-member Matt Wood said the new planning proposal had time limited consents in place, which meant if people were doing the right thing over three years they could get another one, but if an operator was not behaving well, they could be stopped immediately.
Cr Cadwallader said the amendments would provide certainty for proponents, and save energy, time and money to all parties, including council.
Cr Williams said it was ‘great we’re getting a handle on this.’
Wheelchair access to Lighthouse Beach
Council resolved to support, in principle, the construction of a compliant accessible beach access ramp adjacent to the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club, where the gradient is currently too steep for wheelchairs.
Cr Eoin Johnston said, ‘We have to go forward with this’ and acknowledged the wonderful fundraising work of Tracy Everingham and others who have been working on the problem.
A number of options for the design of the path were discussed, including a zigzag and direct option, as well as the already purchased Mobi-Mat (for temporary wheelchair access to beaches).
Although each approach presented problems, Cr Johnston noted, ‘These are nothing compared to the problems of people in wheelchairs, denied a simple pleasure and delight we all take for granted.’
Cr Williams said, ‘Let’s not hang about too long for grant funding, but push along with design and development, let’s not slow this down. It’s frustrating for all concerned.’
Cr Cadwallader talked about accessible ramps at Lake Ainsworth and Shaws Bay and the great opportunities for accessible tourism, not just in Ballina Shire.
Pollution of Ballina Marina Trawler Harbour
Cr Meehan said he’d received complaints about people living on boats in the harbour who might be dumping waste. ‘Is it going into the water? And if so whose responsibility was it?’
Council staff said they would have to check re jurisdictional oversight.
Boat-owner Cr Keith Williams said regulation of grey water was done by NSW Maritime, with all boats legally required to have a holding tank sufficient for the waste of the number of people on vessels, and with this needing to be discharged to a legal discharge point (of which there are none in Ballina) or discharged a mile and a half off-shore.
Following this was a discussion about the continued fallout from the Alstonville Cultural Centre being leased to Byron Studios with inadequate community consultation, and the mayor’s claim that the Tibouchina Club at least were happy to being relocated to Rous Mill Hall.
‘I don’t know of any group that wasn’t consulted,’ said Mayor Wright. ‘Arrangements were offered that they would be re-housed at a different place.’
The rest of the meeting was taken up with discussion of capital expenditures, plans for the new RFS shed and childcare centre for the top of Hutley Drive (the plan is for the existing childcare facility at Lennox Cultural Centre to also continue), and the replacement of wooden bridges in the west of the shire.
Lake Ainsworth vandalism
Crs Phil Meehan and Sharon Cadwallader discussed ongoing concerns about vandalism around the lake (including fires, broken glass, illegal structures).
Cr Cadwallader said, ‘The Friends of Lake Ainsworth have great concerns because it’s ongoing. Staff have worked extremely well with them to keep on top of it, but it feels like more needs to be done.’
She discussed plans to put in closed circuit camera ‘to find out who is responsible and nip it in the bud.’
In a discussion about citizenship ceremonies (which have moved online for the pandemic), Mayor David Wright said, ‘People have been crying and very emotional. I can say a few words and someone becomes an Australian citizen.
‘It’s a huge thing, to do that. And some people have waited seventeen years. It’s a very good process.’
He said the ceremonies were expected to return to being public by Australia Day.
After emerging from confidential session, where the details of COVID-19 funding relief was discussed, General Manager Paul Hickey noted that council had decided to continue this relief until the end of 2020 (a number of groups and individuals have had fees withdrawn or reduced in recent months due to the impact of the pandemic).