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July 2, 2022

Public invited to have say on controversial Wardell Hall lease

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Wardell and District Memorial Hall, now empty and undergoing renovations. Photo David Lowe.

The Ballina Shire Council says a controversial lease of one of its village halls isn’t guaranteed to go ahead, with members of the public invited to submit feedback.

The council voted first at a committee meeting and then later at an ordinary meeting to grant a four-year lease of the hall to long-time tenant,  the Wardell and District Progress Association.

But the matter divided the council 5-4 and Independent Councillor Nigel Buchanan said it had also divided the Wardell community.

Volunteer group Wardell CORE had been using the hall as a flood recovery centre until the electoral commission took over in May, with council staff then explaining it was being gutted as part of flood repair work.

Statutory rule for public consultation

A new lease of the hall was to start in July, council staff told the council’s May ordinary meeting.

Councillors against the proposed lease said the Wardell CORE group hadn’t had a chance to express an interest in taking on the lease.

Wardell CORE team Anne, Lou, Mary, Anissa, Markey, Joel, Venetia and Molly the dog at Wardell Hall. Photo supplied.

But with the proposed lease due for public exhibition and feedback not due for almost a month, theoretically anyone could put forward a case for leasing the hall until the submissions deadline of 6 July.

Council staff on Friday morning explained a second part of the council’s recent vote that had escaped attention of some councillors.

That part concerned public consultation and was for the council to start the statutory process ‘as required under the Local Government Act when a lease is to be granted over “community land”’, staff explained in an email.

Public objections could prompt third vote

Staff said a sign had been placed on the land in question, and letters posted to nearby residents about the proposed lease and options for feedback.

Written submissions were due by 4.30pm Wednesday 6 July.

‘I thought that as far as we were all concerned, we had debated the issue and lost the right to submit it for an EOI,’ Greens Cr Simon Chate wrote to The Echo on Thursday, ‘had I really understood this, I’d have been publicly calling for submissions’.

Council staff said if written submissions objected to the grant of the proposed lease, they would be reported to another council meeting, thereby prompting another vote.


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