OPINION: Where is our community open space?

Nursing home residents using the courtyard to gain safe access to a van.

DEAR News Of The Area,

I AM writing to add my voice to the many people in our community who are concerned about the potential loss of the community space previously provided by the courtyard adjoining the
Nambucca Heads Library.

I understand the Library extension plan includes the courtyard being fenced off behind locked gates, except during Library opening hours.

I am aware that this much appreciated courtyard space has been used for a multitude of purposes, over decades.

I believe it will prove very difficult to replicate these activities, if our courtyard is to be contained behind locked gates.

I, like many other community members, want the courtyard to remain open for community use, not merely opened when Library staff are on duty.

I believe the Library will gain only a little extra space at ground level (approximately 100 sqm).

As a long-term resident of the Valley I note, with deep concern, that this one little space in the centre of Nambucca Heads is the only public space that could be utilised for any sort of public gathering.

I have attended public meetings in that space, used the space to drop off musicians’ instruments, helped artists to drop off/pick up artworks, and participated in election activities there.

I personally benefited from the courtyard when I cared for my centenarian mother, as I was able to deliver her safely in her wheelchair to the side door of the main hall, to attend many concerts held there.

That courtyard space has provided a safe transport facility for the disabled and nursing home residents, enabling these community members to attend such functions.

There is not one other space in the town centre that could serve these purposes.

I believe that visitors to the gallery may not be unaware of Council’s plan to fence of this valuable public space area; that it will only be opened to the public by library staff at times when the library is actually open, and that even when open, the courtyard will contain fixed seating, behind an impressive colonnade.

I question how Council can promote this extension plan as a community hub, a gathering place.

I am further concerned that the seating will preclude easy egress from the main hall especially in the event of an emergency evacuation.

I am concerned that this element of the Library extension plan may have been overlooked by Council, when they embarked upon this concept of a supposedly enhanced open public space amenity for our community.

I am also concerned at the cost blow-out for this project, all of which surely cannot be attributed to material and labour cost increases.

We apparently started with an initial grant of $1.5 million, to which Council now has to put another $3.5 million of our public money.

I have heard that Council is using over $1 million from an annual allocation of State funding set aside for ‘Local Roads and Community Infrastructure’.

‘Infrastructure’ is certainly being funded to the hilt, with this Library project, but what about ‘Local Roads’?

I ask: What level of transparency has been employed, when making the decision to continue pouring money into
this project, at the expense of our local roads, and other more modest Community Infrastructure projects?
Furthermore, I am advised that Council has taken out an additional loan of $ 1.8 million, to help to pay for ‘escalating costs’.

Who will pay for this loan and the interest on it?

I really wish Council had listened to the many people who have used the small hall, the courtyard and the Library so happily for decades – listened to the broader community’s ideas and perspectives, before planning to lock away our open courtyard.

Yours sincerely,
Georgette ALLEN,
Valla Beach.

A band unloading gear in the shared space.

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