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Byron Shire
August 5, 2021

Lennox Gardens object to Council approved shed

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Members and volunteers at the Lennox Community Gardens object to a shed taking over their orchard. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

The members of the Lennox Community Gardens are distressed by what they say is the destruction of an irreplaceable community asset.

The Lennox Lions Club have been given permission by Ballina Council to construct a shed within the Lennox Community Gardens licenced area at Ocean Breeze Reserve, but members of the gardens fiercely object to the project.

Garden committee president James Gatland says that the Lions Club secured a grant to construct a large shed, however, it did not have land to construct it on. ‘The Lions Club approached Council and several sites were investigated. None were considered suitable. With grant funds due to expire, Council’s attention turned to the community gardens as a perceived quick solution.’

Mr Gatland says the area proposed for the Lennox Lions Club shed is ideally suited for the growing of tropical fruit due to its northerly aspect and the recently constructed concrete sound wall which radiates heat and provides shelter from southerly winds. ‘This unique microclimate is now home to dozens of native edible and tropical fruit trees. Some of these trees, such as the native Australian longan and Pouteria butyrocarpa, are almost extinct.’

Now complete, the orchard is intended to be held in perpetuity for the Lennox Head community. ‘It is unlike any other project ever undertaken in the shire. It is truly communal, meaning that it is open and available for the enjoyment of all members of the community at all times.’

Mr Gatland says the orchard is a wonderful example of the community coming together to create something of lasting value. ‘It is the culmination of volunteer labour and in-kind contributions from local individuals and businesses.’

A rescission motion for Thursday’s Council meeting

Cr Jeff Johnson has lodged a rescission motion for Thursday’s Council meeting. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Jeff Johnson says he has lodged a rescission motion for Thursday’s Council meeting. ‘I move that that Council staff work with the Lennox Lion’s Club to submit a DA for the expansion of their current main shed/garage at the Skennars Head Sports Fields.

‘It appears that the pressure to comply with a NSW Gov Grant ($26,000) and Ballina Council’s inability to find a suitable alternative location led to the proposed new shed to be constructed within the licensed area of the Lennox Community Garden.

‘This has been a terrible outcome for both community groups as the proposed location is where the Community Garden group have planted a tropical fruit orchard. You simply can’t have both.’

Cr Johnson says that if the decision is not reversed it creates uncertainty for not only the Lennox Community Garden, but other community groups that have leases over community land. ‘Council shouldn’t be going against its own Master Plan and asking a volunteer group to rip up their orchard, which has been planted with the full consent of Council and is designed as a long term project for the community.

The obvious way forward is to expand the Lion’s clubs existing shed at the Skennars Sportsfields to fit their larger trailer. That way both groups have their own space and there will be no conflict.

A win/win is possible

Tamara Smith MP is a huge supporter of the gardens and hopes that the committee and the Lion can come up with a win/win outcome. Photo Tree Faerie.

Local member Tamara Smith MP say that surely a win/win is possible where both community groups are supported by Ballina Council in a way that does not destroy the very fabric of the important work both groups are doing. ‘Imposing a huge piece of infrastructure on a well-established community garden makes no sense at all – it is completely at odds with the purpose of greening and regenerating.’

‘Allowing the Lions Club to lose their grant funding because there is no suitable council land for them to house the equipment they need for fundraising is also a perverse outcome.’

Secretary of the Lennox Lions Club Bill Farrow says that the Lennox Head Lions have a State Government grant to construct a shed. ‘We have been talking to Council for nearly two years about a site. In January of this year Council advised that its preferred site was a co-location on the Lennox Community Gardens site. We had preliminary discussions with Community Gardens about this and on 2 February 2021 Community Gardens put forward a proposal for us to construct a 78m2 shed on their site in the area now referred to as the orchard.

No funding for extra work

Mr Farrow says the proposal from Community Gardens however requested us to not only include storage for Community Gardens in the shed – we had allowed for this – but also carry out other works (relocate solar, instal a battery, install a water tank and build an awning). We did not have funding for this additional work and advised Community Gardens of this, but offered to work with them to get future funding. ‘By letter dated 8 February, the  Community Gardens responded that their position was non-negotiable. Lions could not commit to carry out work for which it had no funding.’

Mr Farrow says the Lions then went back to Council and made submissions to the May meeting of Council in relation to another site in Hutley Drive. ‘At that meeting Council advised that site was not suitable but then passed a resolution that Lions be granted a site in Ocean Breeze Reserve.’

Mr Farrow says that in response to a rescission motion, Council officers have now indicated that there are two possible sites for our shed, on the Community Gardens site, and on the Skennars Head Sports Field where we currently have a (too small) lean-to. Each site has issues. Either site is acceptable to us subject to issues being resolved.

‘Resolution of a site is very urgent due to a time limit on taking up the grant – we need a site approved by end of July.’

Encouraging community ownership

Mr Gatland says that Council’s Climate Change Policy clearly expresses the importance of encouraging community ownership of and participation in climate change action. ‘By their very nature, community gardens sequester carbon by the planting of trees and building of soil. They also provide the added benefits of reducing; soil erosion and run-off, the need for mowing and spraying, and food miles associated with transporting food. ‘

The gardens committee says that security of tenure is a fundamental requirement of a community garden. ‘To carry out a long-term project such as a public orchard, one must have the assurance that it will not be forcibly removed to make way for development,’ says Mr Gatland. ‘Projects such as orchards are planned months, sometimes years, in advance, and the rewards take years to materialise.

‘By the simple act of debating the potential to remove the orchard, Council risks undermining the wider project. In order for Lennox Community Gardens to continue to attract sponsors and volunteers, Council must provide certainty that their donations and labour will not be in vain. And there has never been a more important time for certainty.’


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6 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s terrible that Lennox Gardens – who probably only pays $10 peppercorn rent for a large piece of public land – thinks they can sublease that land in exchange for free infrastructure and financial gain. They have no right to do such with ratepayer’s land.

    The Lion Club was going to give Community Gardens storage in the new shed – “we had allowed for this” Mr Farrow said. But then Lennox Gardens demanded Lions “carry out other works – relocate solar, instal a battery, install a water tank and build an awning” – [on a garden shed???], and when Lions couldn’t produce the extra money, “Community Gardens responded that their position was non-negotiable”. How dare Lennox Garden’s try to exploit a charitable organisation!

    But then Lions “offered to work with them to get future funding” [as service organisations usually do] and they were still rejected by Lennox Gardens. Well, I hope Council has a good hard look at this lack of community spirit on Lennox Community Garden’s part and give them no more financial support, and when their licence is renewed, charge them the full commercial rate for those acres they claim are rightly theirs. Paying Council $50,000+ p.a. for the land will wake them up to themselves.

    I, for one, won’t be visiting that Garden or giving these Community Garden hoarders any more support in the future. Greedy, greedy, greedy.

    • What Geoffs response and the two others below are missing are some critical facts:
      Councils Plan of Management allowed only one shed in the license. So the Lions to put a shed there would have to include a replacement shed for that of the Community Gardens. The site had no power and no water.
      Lions proposed shed space with no power and no water to replace the Gardens shed that had both from funds they had raised. O f course there would be costs to add those things without which no garden can properly operate. The notion of Gardens demanding tens of thousands of dollars is nonsense. They asked for the cost of transporting the solar system and installing a tank.
      Community Gardens had been planning and preparing the land proposed for the combined shed for its Orchard for months and had began planting the area. Lions proposal would have concreted over the lot.
      So no money to replace their shed with needed facilities and only concrete over their prepared garden bed . No wonder Community Gardens said no thanks.
      When Gardens had advised Council and Lions that they couldn’t compromise their whole project they also advised them that the would continue with their planting programme and did so. The unreasonableness of the Lions proposal was recognised in the vote by Council yesterday. It was unanimous that Lions shed should not be built there.
      Community Gardens organic fruit and vegetables will be free to the community from this wonderful charitable group.. So Geoff, your loss if you don’t go there. Nancy’s comments are pure fantasy.
      Lynette

      • Here we go. Ballina Environment Society’s Lyn Walker and Councillor Jeff Johnson whipping up conflict between community groups for some political momentary gain. Yes Lyn, last week I was cc’ed your nasty group email slagging off the Lions club. You have no shame in yours and Jeff’s campaigns to cause divisions. You were the main provocateur in bringing matter into the public domain. The Ballina Environment Society needs to start keeping out of other people’s business. I’m a Green and your an embarrassment to the movement.

  2. Yes, community gardens first tried to sub-let the shed space to Lions for tens of thousands of dollars of favours. And when that failed, they planted an orchard to try to stop council giving the space to Lions for free.

    But under its license Community Gardens strictly can’t sub-let councils land to others, as they have no right. So it’s lucky for them that this failed, because if it had succeeded, it would probably now be in court, examining whether funds or favours had been obtained deceptively.

  3. Another political stunt by Jeff. Behind the scenes whipping up divisions between community groups, then he re-enters as the white-night ready to patch things up and save the day.

    Yawn. Watch this space for his next act of pseudo-compassion.

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