A petition of 1,029 signatures will be presented to Eurobodalla Shire Council as the discussion around the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre builds momentum.
Early last month, Council rejected claims that it was planning to demolish the Centre but did point to the possibility of the site being sold or commercially leased in the future.
Lindsay Usher, Council’s Director of Planning and Sustainability told Region Media, “We are looking at incorporating the functions of the Community Centre and [Batemans Bay] Visitors Centre into the new Mackay Park [aquatic and cultrural] centre.”
“There are potential benefits on two fronts – it minimises costs and makes services more effective and it means there is the potential that we can generate income from those other sites and that money can go towards Mackay Park,” Mr Usher said.
However, some of those who use the Community Centre for regular meetings, workshops, and get-togethers are concerned and nervous.
“Many residents have stated they want the Batemans Bay Community Centre to stay where it is and continue to be maintained as a Community Centre, even after the Mackay Park theatre and arts centre is built, as an accessible, low-key meeting place,” says Dr Sue Mackenzie, PerfEx President.
“To sell the building and dislocate its numerous users is an ill-considered and regrettable move.
“While the new Mackay Park facility will no doubt be a great asset to the community, there are questions raised as to why we must lose a core asset to finalise that.
“Councillors were surprised to hear that 112 community organisations used the centre in 2018 for U3A meetings, Meals on Wheels food preparation, dance and martial arts classes, food and craft markets, social outreach services, a youth café and many regular or singular meetings.”
Councillor Anthony Mayne, who collected the petition and will table it at Council on May 28 says now that the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have committed $51 million to the Mackay Park project there is less need to sell Council assets.
“Whilst no decision has been made, many in the community have only recently become aware of the potential for the Community Centre to be sold,” Cr Mayne says.
“It’s important for a lot of people, so Council would not look lightly to sell.
“I welcome the petition, it’s a good way to understand where the community is at.”
Cr Mayne says his preference is to hold on to community assets like halls and green space.
“We have got to think about future generations, we are the benefactors of our predecessors, we have benefited from their thinking for the future, what is our thinking for the future? My preference is do not sell it.”
Outside of the petition, Dr Mackenzie says groups like hers are keen to get a better sense of the community space that will be available in the new aquatic and arts centre at Mackay Park.
“There is no indication the new centre will replicate or match the space for services provided in the existing centre, or its accessibility, either financially or geographically,” she says.
“I note too that this part of town badly needs people moving in and out to keep its vitality, especially now Target is closing down.
“With Dan Murphy’s moving in nearby, it is even more essential to discourage negative or alcohol related behaviour by making this a well-lit and active area.”
Mr Usher says any decision on the Community Centre are still some time away and that the community will continue to have access.
“Council is not going to dispose of those until we are able to provide an alternate site at Mackay Park, this will be tied to the development and opening of those new facilities.”