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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Uncertainty over future of council funds delivered through strictly confidential government lease

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It’s unclear what the NSW government is paying in rent for its first ‘mini-village’ for disaster survivors, but one suggestion for spending the council revenue is being heard today.

In agenda notes for today’s ordinary Ballina Shire Council meeting, staff said the rental lease between the state government and the council for land on the Wollongbar Sports Field included a confidentiality clause.

‘Any public discussion on this Notice of Motion should not refer to the rental figure, unless Council resolves into confidential session,’ the notes said.

Terms of the lease were to remain ‘strictly confidential’.

Staff also explained the government was paying rent to the council on a monthly basis and had ‘the option to terminate with one month’s notice’.

‘Whilst the lease is for a period of two years, the full receipt of the funds may not eventuate if the lease is terminated early,’ staff notes read.

The NSW government announced earlier this month $350 million in funding for up to 2,000 temporary emergency ‘housing pods’, which so far appear similar to so-called ‘dongas’ used on construction and festival sites.

Wollongbar ‘way of life’ under pressure, says Greens councillor

Ballina Cr Simon Chate. Photo David Lowe.


Greens Ballina Shire Councillor Simon Chate didn’t refer to the lack of guaranteed funds in the confidential deal when putting forward his motion for money raised to be spent on a new bike path to Alstonville.

Cr Chate’s notes said while the government’s planned emergency accommodation in the form of up to 130 temporary ‘housing pods’ on the sports field for disaster survivors was an ‘essential and appropriate response in the current climate’, the community of Wollongbar needed to be acknowledged.

An expected influx of people, infrastructure and vehicles to Wollongbar would, he said, add pressure on existing village infrastructure and the ‘way of life’ there.

The Greens councilor called for ‘appropriate compensation’.

Call for urgent investigation of new bike path on ‘very dangerous’ route

Alstonville entrance sign. Photo David Lowe.

The track between Wollongbar and Alstonville would run along Pearces Creek Road, a route the councilor described as ‘very dangerous’ for bike riders and pedestrians.

Yet, he said, it was the only available option for pedestrians and cyclists travelling to and from Alstonville.

‘Many cars travel along this road at between 60 – 80kph and pedestrians and cyclists risk their lives by having to travel on the road itself,’ Cr Chate wrote in notes for his motion.

The motion also called for the council to urgently investigate and cost the path project, and for any remaining funds to be directed to other areas of benefit to the Wollongbar community, such as footpaths.

Council plans already underway for new bike path

Staff notes on Cr Chate’s motion said there were plans for a new shared pathway already in a draft Delivery Program for 2022/23 to 2025/26.

The program included $110,000 for path works on Pearces Creek Road in 2025/26, as identified in the Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan (PAMP), staff said.

But staff said the council was required to make sure there was a shared access way from the Pearces Creek Road entrance to Alstonville before it started building the new pathway through the sports field.

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  1. Typical of this government, nothing is open, all confidential. What do they have to hide? Time the mayor speaks up about her pals. Though don’t vote greens , the gap between the turn off and the next bit of pathway , Simon is correct. But the question remains why haven’t the council have this as a priority?

  2. I notice reference to motor vehicles. How will people access Wollongbar shropping about 2.5km away and Alstonville Plaza 5km away if they don’t have vehicles? How will residents safely access the Fields as pedestrians if vehicular traffic will increase and be more frequent? As many of the dislocated are vulnerable people including aged, people with a disability, and many will be suffering mental health issues either as a result of this disaster and/or have pre existing conditions how will they have access to services which are not available on the Plateau? What temporary community facilities will be available for people located in the pod village so that they can meet and operate as a community? How will this surge in population impact medical, counselling and education services in the area?
    These are just some unanswered questions that come immediately to mind and secrecy about arrangements and contracts will serve to put the community ill at ease akin to that when likewise occurred regarding the commercial hiring out of the Plateau’s entertainment and leisure centre. I know many of us on the Plateau want to help and welcome those who have suffered so much. But don’t treat us like mushrooms!

  3. This section of road should have a shared pathway to connect the Wollongbar Sports Fields with Alstonville. Thanks for bringing this proposal forward Simon. Let’s see if we can get the path constructed within the next 18 months. I’m surprised that safe foot/cycleways haven’t already been constructed to the sports fields.

  4. The “‘essential and appropriate response in the current climate’, ” measure to house those homeless because of climate change flooding should be supported by all concerned . I can’t, for the life of me, understand the Ballina council’s profiteering from this dreadful calamity.
    This perfidious scam, to slug Australian taxpayers for more even after the enormous levels of State and Federal assistance freely given,….No wonder they want to remain undercover.
    However, if the ‘lucre’ raised is to be spent on such essential infrastructure such as a bike track ( never mind the fact that councils can’t even maintain their “roads, rates and rubbish” responsibilities ), then Whioo-hooo ! ….dust of the trusty treadly and trundle on down to compassion headquarters at Ballina ( bring your own lunch ! ).
    Cheers, G”)


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