Public meeting at Nambucca Heads RSL Club strengthens locals’ resolve

Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, Nambucca Heads RSL Club President Terrie Hyslop and Chief Executive Officer Wendy Mills explained the background to the dispute and the terms of the lease licence before Cara Dale and Chris Bawn from C2Hills Consultancy talked about the range of issues that have been identified in the car park.

 

BACK IN December 2021, News Of The Area reported on a dispute between Nambucca Valley Council and the Nambucca Heads RSL Club over the renewal of a lease for use of the RSL car park and Anzac Park.

Nearly six months on, the matter is no closer to being resolved and, in fact, an Aboriginal land claim launched in February has added a further complication.

This is a complex issue, and on April 28 the Club held a public meeting to let club members and residents know how the matter was progressing.

Nambucca Heads RSL Club President Terrie Hyslop opened the meeting by explaining that an Aboriginal land claim had been launched and until this was investigated, a new lease could not be entered into, however the Club could operate under a licence, and this licence was issued by the Nambucca Valley Council on April 22.

Council reduced the rent back to the original rent for a twelve-month period, but the Club is still negotiating some of the terms of the earlier lease, which expired on May 8.

Chief Executive Officer Wendy Mills explained, “The licence will leave us breathing space for twelve months; however, it does not resolve the maintenance dispute of the car park.

“The terms of the lease licence state that the car park must be unhindered 24 hours a day for public use, which the Club has no issues with.

“Our issue is that we should have to pay the total cost for the car park.

“We currently employ 90 staff in two locations – the other location is the Nambucca Heads Surf Club, which we proudly support – along with 260 suppliers.

“In 2021 the Club invested $3.8 million on employee benefits.

“On average per month our wage bill is $316,000, our cost of goods $264,000; entertainment $12,000 and local contractors $63,000.

“This equates to an average injection of $655,000 a month into the local community – and this is what would be lost.”

Ms Mills said it was not only the 90 staff members who would be affected if they lost their jobs; there would also be an impact on their families.

Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan offered his support saying, “Clearly this is an issue between local Council and the Club and it’s an important issue.

“Without a car park, you have no club and we all understand that you have to comply with regulations.

“There have been some fairly detailed discussions as to legal options that the club could take.

“While there is a licence for another twelve months, I’m concerned that there is now a land title claim.”

Mr Conaghan also said there were options for the Club to work with the Council to achieve the result that’s needed.

“This Club gives so much back to the community and it’s one of the reasons it was successful in the $2 million grant as an emergency evacuation centre hub.”

The Club has undertaken preliminary investigations by road engineers and there is a range of issues that have been identified in the car park, including the pavement breaking in areas, known as crocodile pavement; water leaking from unknown underground sources and rising through the pavement, soil/clay rising to the surface and leaching through the cracks.

There are several areas where the pavement is sinking, and the retaining walls, which are outside the scope of works for the car park, are failing along the boardwalk and river’s edge.

Stormwater and infrastructure are the responsibility of the Council.

Other things to consider are that the valuation methodology undertaken by Council failed the peer review undertaken by the Crown Land’s valuation.

The Club employed the Crown Land’s preferred valuer, who valued the property at $22,000 per annum rent as opposed to $65,000.

Maintenance issues in the car park raise significant issues as the current lease proposes that the work be undertaken within twelve months.

The Club has approached the bank for proposed finance, but since it’s Crown Land that’s not an option.

The reality is that unless the lease is changed, a long-term lease cannot be signed due to the financial impact on it.
Several local people spoke from the floor, and their views seemed to reflect the general mood of those in attendance, that they were solidly behind the Club.

News Of The Area spoke with Chris Thompson, General Manager of Nambucca Valley Council, who said Council is committed to helping the RSL Club.

A complicating factor is that the roof of the RSL building has been leaking for a long period of time and, while the Federal Government has provided a grant of $2 million to fix it, the possibility that the roof leakage may have an effect on the stormwater problems and needs to be investigated.

Mr Thompson mentioned that Council has offered to jointly fund investigations into the stormwater problems.

He said that by collecting rent from the Boat Shed Café and the Bait Shop, the fee they pay to lease the carpark is substantially reduced.

Mr Thompson reiterated, “We have expectations that the RSL Club will honour its longstanding commitments, and we remain committed to helping the Club.”

There is obviously more to come in this debate.

 

By Susan KONTIC

 

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