At their last meeting, Ballina Shire councillors wrestled with funding priorities across the region, from the beaches to the hinterland.
With NSW government funding up for grabs, the staff suggestion was that Ballina Council advance the Sharpes Beach master plan, build a $762,000 pump track at Kingsford Smith Park, and improve footpaths in Parkland Drive and Pearces Creek Alstonville, as well as Rubiton Street in Wollongbar and Montwood Drive in Lennox Head.
Cr Phil Meehan spoke in support of these suggestions, describing them as a ‘politically very good approach’ and practical as well.
Cr Jeff Johnson said the Cumbalum sports fields children’s play equipment was in dire need of an upgrade, which couldn’t wait until 2024 as planned. Mayor Sharon Cadwallader said something else would have to come out for that to be advanced, and GM Paul Hickey agreed.
What about Alstonville?
Cr Eoin Johnston said there were more pressing needs for footpaths in Alstonville than those nominated. GM Hickey said these things ‘were not an exact science’ and it was about ‘trying to work it out as best we can.’
Cr Simon Chate then waded in with another suggestion for the Regional Tourism Activation Fund, namely a ‘walking or cycling trail between Alstonville and Summerland Farm, along Wardell Road’.
GM Paul Hickey said such a project had not been costed, but could potentially be $2m. He said that joint funding was a possibility, and more than one application could be made to the RTF.
Cr Simon Chate then proposed an amendment to that effect. The ensuing debate wound back to Cr Johnson’s plans for an improved playground at Cumbalum, then to the costings of the pump track at Kingsford Smith (a pump track is an enclosed track for bikes and scooters, featuring ramps and dips which can be navigated mainly with the aid of gravity).
Cr Kiri Dicker wondered why the proposed pump track was so pricey, when her kids loved the relatively inexpensive one at Suffolk Park. GM Paul Hickey said the problem was fast-climbing construction costs. ‘It’s such a crazy world!’ he said, before explaining the budget was a high level estimate.
What kind of track and where?
Cr Eoin Johnston’s said he had some concerns about Cr Chate’s amendment regarding a track to Summerland Farm, which he said had come ‘out of the blue’.
Cr Phil Meehan concurred, saying, ‘With the concept of this shared pathway out to Summerland Farm I’m presuming we have no planning, no engineering, no costing etc. How do we put in a grant application on such a basis?’
GM Paul Hickey said there were no good plans linking all the tourism in the hinterland together, ‘and that’s something we should look at in the future’. He said it was still possible to put a grant application in and ask the question.
Returning to the pump track question, Cr Jeff Johnson said he’d proposed a pump track for Ocean Breeze Reserve in the past, which had been knocked back, although the cost had been low compared to the numbers being discussed now.
With regards to the pathway to Summerland Farm, he said there was no reason why more than one application could not be made. ‘This council is very successful with grant funding,’ he said. Then he elaborated on the need for a better playground in Cumbalum.
‘There’s so many younger kids who are there with their siblings, while they play sport, with nothing to do. This is a need for an area that doesn’t get a lot of facilities.
‘There’s not even a shop out there,’ he reminded his fellow councillors.
Ballina deserves the best
Cr Rod Bruem said it had been a good discussion, but he would be supporting the original recommendation. ‘I’m particularly pleased to see this money allocated for the pump track at Kingsford Smith Park,’ he said. ‘I think it’ll be great… If we’re building one here in Ballina, it should be built to the top standard not to a sub-standard.’
Cr Kiri Dicker said she would vote in favour of the amendment, saying she had been elected to represent the entire shire, and not ‘hoard resources’. Regarding the pump track idea, she drew attention to an online petition recently started by a young Lennox resident for a pump track, which had already attracted over 500 signatures.
‘I’m convinced that we can do something that’s more than adequate with $600,000,’ she said. ‘We might have to forego some small things that can be picked up in another grant.’
Cr Phil Meehan then played councillors a Facebook video of the Wayne Richards Pump Track in Port Macquarie, which got everyone excited.
Mayor Cadwallader said the pump track would bring ‘more diversity for our community’, but said she wouldn’t be supporting the amendment because, ‘we’ve got to live within our means as we go forward, and we’ve got to give ourselves the best opportunity of applying for grants.’
Cr Meehan agreed, and the amendment was lost. After almost an hour of circular discussion, Ballina Council finally unanimously approved the original motion in the form recommended by staff.
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