Hans Lovejoy, editor
Almost every Council meeting throws up hard decisions that must be courageously tackled, such as resolving competing community uses of public land.
At last Thursday’s Council meeting, councillors voted to proceed with plans for a pump track, or a BMX track, at the Linda Vidler Memorial Parklands, located in Suffolk Park.
Yet the chamber heard the decision comes without an adopted masterplan for the area, although a plan of management (PoM) was in place.
The chamber also heard additional drainage and infill works were also needed, no matter what occurs on the site.
The community gardens, which is also located in the park, said they were against, while the local soccer club were also vying for use. The associated staff report for the project said ‘conflicting demands’ for the space also included Arakwal interests.
During morning access, Tee Miller from the community gardens told councillors, via a prerecorded submission, that the gardens, ‘has been unable to develop its plans because it does not have a licence.’
‘Without a licence, access to funds and grants have proved impossible. Council staff told us we can’t apply for a licence until [the community gardens] are officially on the Linda Vidler Memorial Parklands masterplan’. Ms Miller said, ‘The pump track has no licence and no members, yet it is already on the masterplan, and has been given $118,700 of Council funds and now it wants $200,000 to build stage two, commencing in two months’ time’.
‘This puts the community garden at a disadvantage’.
Meanwhile, Donald Maughan from the Suffolk Park Progress Association told the chamber during public access that there is a huge demand from young people wanting to use the track, and that when built, an Alstonville bike group is ready to come to hold workshops.
While independent Crs Coorey and Basil Cameron supported the proposal by the Suffolk Park Progress Association, Cr Alan Hunter spoke against. ‘This belongs to everyone’, the Nationals Party-aligned councillor said. ‘No one has a right to exclusivity’.
Meanwhile, Cr Paul Spooner (Labor), said it was ‘brave to vote against a masterplan and agree to whoever knocks at our door’. He said approval of the full plans was, ‘Thumbing our nose at process’.
Cr Spooner said, ‘We heard from other user groups to hold off. The community gardens and soccer club want the masterplan finished [expected to be in April, 2021]’.
‘We created a Catch-22 for one group, and for another we are writing the cheques’.
A motion by Labor’s Paul Spooner to approve construction of just stage one was defeated, and instead, an amendment by Cr Michael Lyon was successful, which authorises construction of stage one and allocates $200,000 ‘to allow the design and construction of stage two of the Pump Track’.
Council did not call for tenders for the project, according to the amendment, ‘because inviting tenders would not achieve a satisfactory result’.
‘Extenuating circumstances’ were provided in the amendment, including the company ‘already being selected by Council via market testing to construct’.
Crs Hunter, Spooner, and Hackett voted against.
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