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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

Open letter about Alstonville Cultural Centre

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The former Alstonville Leisure and Entertainment Centre, now the Alstonville Cultural Centre. Photo supplied.

Ballina Shire Council’s recent decision to turn the Alstonville Cultural Centre community facility over to private film production for two years is continuing to cause angst in the Alstonville community.

An open letter has been sent to the mayor and councillors from nine community groups protesting the decision.

The letter states: ‘This council decision has been taken quietly, without any community consultation, resulting in angst within the community, and causing division, as local people try to clarify the possible repercussions of council’s decision.

‘Many sporting, cultural and service organisations will be unable to continue their community activities, or will be forced to relocate to alternative, less appropriate, sites. This, at a time when community groups and organisations are already suffering the financial impacts of COVID 19.

‘As a result, the community calls upon Ballina Shire Council for improved communication between council and the plateau community.’

Two year limit

The open letter requests that council limit the currently approved lease time frame to two years, allowing ‘Byron Studios sufficient time to make alternative arrangements.’

The letter also calls for appropriate accommodation to be found on the Alstonville Plateau for community users without those users incurring any additional ‘out of pocket’ expenses, with compensation to be paid if such accommodation cannot be found.

The signatories request a proper community consultative process for any future council proposals, ‘however urgent’.

In closing, the open letter requests ‘openness and honesty in all council deliberations that impact the Alstonville Plateau community, and informed community consultation before decisions are made.

‘As citizens and ratepayers, we are required to consult and make application to council for any changes that impact on our community. We expect the same from our elected representatives.’

The open letter is signed by the following organisations:

  • Alstonville Community Basketball
  • Alstonville Plateau Historical Society Inc.
  • Alstonville Plateau Physical Culture Club
  • Alstonville Wollongbar Chamber of Commerce
  • Wollongbar Progress Association Inc.
  • Alstonville Lions Club
  • Alstonville Social Justice Group
  • Quota Alstonville Inc.
  • Wollongbar Garden Club Inc.

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  1. Hello
    I would like to further clarify that the open letter regarding ALEC is about BSC’s behaviour regarding this matter, we are talking about BSC as an entity not about individual Councillors.

    The council voted 6 to 4 to deny this community of a facility that areas of the Shire such as Lennox Head and Ballina enjoy. I think any community would be upset, particularly when plans were made and decisions taken in such a secretive manner. We acknowledge that our 3 of our 4 ward C councillors (Sharon Parry, Eoin Johnston, Ben Smith) voted against the proposal with another councillor Nathan Willis. We appreciate the stance they took on Council.

  2. I agree that the community should always have a proper, meaningful say. But on the flip-side, I find hard to fathom the community’s priorities sometimes. I might be wrong but I don’t recall seeing local organisations like these protesting when the threat of water mining arose or the decision to expand Boral’s operation was playing out. So this kind of injection into the local business community is unacceptable but exposing our kids and the village to a cocktail of hydrocarbons and chemical particulates is perfectly fine?

    • Brendan, I don’t know where you were when we were protesting Boral’s expansion. The Asphalt Watch could have done with some support. Were you ringing the EPA and Boral during the long nights of smell and noise? Did you attend the meetings? It was always the same few of us who were regarded as nuisances.

      As for the water mining there was immense support from the community over that.

  3. In saying this decision regarding the Alstonville Leisure Centre has caused anger in the Alstonville community is an understatement…many in the Alstonville Community are beyond anger and are livid.
    This goes right to the heart of “open disclosure”..
    The first people heard about this was on the Monday via social before the BSC meeting on the Thursday.
    Then just to clarify this whole debacle..some of the councillors at that Thursday meeting were unaware of the facts in the matter with the proposed leasing of the Alstonville Leisure Centre.
    In that case…the ALEC lease proposal should have been “delayed to a further date”until all councillors had read all the relevant documentation and were completely familiar with the proposal.
    This did not happen..
    The statements by some councillors for their decision borders of “insulting ones’ intelligence”..and are completely disingenuous..excuses such as..”the centre was not properly patronised”..
    I suppose this councillor has been living under a rock for the past 6 months..because the NSW Covid restrictions closed many indoor activities, so hence patronage to the Alstonville Centre, like other BSC community assets would have been highly restricted.
    The “open letter”..displays those organisations who have been thrown out of the ALEC for the next two years with a scant ” non binding, maybe, we will see,” promise of some help to find new accommodation.
    Yeh..right, Tony Abbott and his explanation of “core and non core promises” comes to mind.

  4. For the next three years Alstonville will no longer have access to the community facility (2years for the commercial contract and 1 year for refurbishment).

    In the past various service clubs in the area have used the facility either to raise funds for local community groups eg Red Cross, Heartfelt House, local hospitals, victims of domestic abuse, aged care, disability services, RFS, Landcare and other wider concerns such as regional floods and bushfires. Youth groups have used it for such activities as Physical Culture. Gymnastics, Basketball, etc. As well schools and other groups have used it to provide activities for older citizens, performance, formal dinners, lunches for carer, etc.

    Not only will the community lose the use of the facility but funds that are often raised using the facility will no longer be available to the wider community. Our library will be moved we are told but we have no timeframe or location at this time.

    A number of fairly vague commitments have been made by council. Not unreasonably we expect firm commitments that Council promises made now will be delivered. The Plateau community expects Council keep the community informed via a published quarterly report on the Community Centre situation, and a comprehensive annual report, including financial details relating to the Community Centre. Many of these details should have occurred in an appropriate and transparent consultative process before a decision was made .

    We are told it was urgent and council had to act in the best interests of Ballina Shire. We argue:
    • If a ratepayer who had an urgent need to act decisively would BSC suspend or eliminate the DA process ? We think not.
    • That many BS councillors were only given some idea of this specific proposal the Friday evening before the council meeting with no details. That’s not good enough.
    • The council proposed the site to the new tenants without any reference to the community prior to the decision having been made. Unacceptable
    • We are also aware that some organisations were notified of BSC’s intentions before the matter became public and they were told not to comment until after the decision was made. I am not willing to name those organisations but a number of us were told by members of those organisations after the decision was made. This is not the sort of behaviour we find acceptable by our council
    • Two councillors at the September council meeting described Alstonville as dead or dying and needed urgent assistance. One even went further to say that many of the groups using the facility were old or aged and that their organisations probably would cease to function after the three years had elapsed. Unacceptable comments and those of us living on the Alstonville Plateau are very proud of our town. Like everywhere these are difficult economic times and we are doing our best to support our local businesses and they are still surviving. Try and get a tradie around here at the moment!
    • The council’s behaviour has created division in the community when, during this pandemic, we have stuck together.

    • “• Two councillors at the September council meeting described Alstonville as dead or dying and needed urgent assistance. One even went further to say that many of the groups using the facility were old or aged and that their organisations probably would cease to function after the three years had elapsed. Unacceptable comments and those of us living on the Alstonville Plateau are very proud of our town. ”

      Alan, you are those comments by those councillors are unacceptable. These so called “old people ” have been the fabric of our community in this town. To treat them with such disdain is sickening.


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