Bega Valley Shire Council is banging on the table of the State Government concerning the future of 16 key community assets including local surf clubs and Rural Fire Service (RFS) facilities.
In doing so Mayor Kristy McBain has reassured the community of Council’s commitment to these services.
Councilors this week voted to “Give notice to the NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry of Council’s intention to divest of its management responsibilities over several New South Wales Government assets.”
The assets slated for hand back are:
- Wapengo RFS Shed
- Pambula RFS Shed
- Bermagui RFS Shed
- Burragate RFS Shed
- Tarraganda RFS Shed
- Candelo RFS Shed
- Nethercote RFS Shed
- Wyndham RFS Shed
- Kiah RFS Shed
- Quaama RFS Shed
- Tathra Surf Club
- Bermagui Surf Club
- Pambula Surf Club
- Bermagui State Emergency Service Shed
- Tathra Wharf
- Tathra Beach Kiosk
All are owned by the ‘Crown’ AKA the NSW Government but managed and maintained by Bega Valley Shire Council at a cost to ratepayers, a cost that according to Council’s Director or Assets and Operations Anthony McMahon is increasingly unsustainable.
“Council is extremely constrained in its management of assets within a diminishing budget and the highly controlled rate pegging regime in place in NSW,” Mr McMahon said.
“[Council] is of the firm belief the NSW Government should provide suitable funding for State owned assets or manage their use directly with building occupiers.”
As an example of the increasing pressure on council, General Manager, Leanne Barnes pointed to the $3 million needed for repairs to Tathra Wharf.
“During the repair work undertaken on the Tathra Wharf following the East Coast Low in 2016 Council took the opportunity to undertake a detailed condition assessment report of the Wharf which identified that over 28% of the over-water piles supporting the Tathra Wharf have deteriorated to such a degree that major replacement or repair works are required,” Ms Barnes told Region Media.
“Council has continued to lobby for and apply for funding to have these works undertaken. The project is one outside Council’s capacity to fund.”
Upon hearing news that council was considering ‘handing back’ surf clubs and fire sheds, Councilors at this week’s meeting spoke of the unrest that had created in these predominantly volunteer organisations.
“People have been concerned that we were giving away Tathra Surf Club,” Cr Cathy Griff said.
In moving to allay fears, Mayor Kristy McBain said, “we understand the significant benefits these organisations play in our community.”
“[We want] to have these [assets] better funded so we don’t lose them in the future.
“We can’t continue to do this on behalf of the NSW Government.”
The motion passed unanimously but Cr McBain stressed the move should be seen by the community as the start of a negotiation process with the State Government.
“We need help to manage these facilities,” she said.
Council is hoping talks with the NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry will lead to a new income stream to cover the cost of maintenance and upgrades.
But in the meantime, Mr McMahon said, “Council officers intend to liaise with building occupiers to explain Council’s intention and it will be a requirement of divestment of management responsibilities that all existing uses and occupations of these building, continue into the future as a direct agreement with the NSW Government rather than Council as Crown Land Manager.”
Politics is at play between two levels of government, with the interests of the community a key bargaining tool, Bega Valley Shire Council has made the first move.