Thursday, 18 September 2008

Wingecarribee Election - the fall-out is not yet clear

This came to me tonight from Cam Ford, well known campaigner against the sale of public lands in the Shire, to pay for the madness of the intended "leisure centre".

I am publishing this here under Cam's policy of asking that it be forwarded to other interested residents.

Denis Wilson

Dear Concerned Residents;

Driving in to Moss vale from the north these days, it would be hard to miss the large sign advertising Lennon Brothers Circus. From a distance it could quite easily read “Lehman Brothers Circus”, which rather neatly sums up the whole disastrous legacy that our outgoing Council’s Financial Committee has left us; in particular the foolish “Parks for Pools” Leisure Centre scheme; which has now fortunately been decisively rejected in the recent Poll.

In itself, I don’t think the idea of a Leisure Centre was necessarily a bad one; it was the ham-fisted handling of the funding model which was a disaster. The high-handed proposal to cut up and sell off vast parcels of our public pools, parks, reserves and other green spaces put the general public offside immediately, as they were never even allowed to have a say on the sale of almost half of the properties on the list.

No matter how the proponents of the scheme tried to bulldoze it through by subsequently fiddling with the formula, their arrogant “all-or-nothing” attitude did little to help their cause and was ultimately to be the cause of their defeat.

Now, I admit I’m no economic genius. But If, say, the Financial Committee could have found a way to partially fund the Leisure Centre from Council’s original $30 million investment fund, combined with the sale of the old Mittagong Sewage Treatment Plant, developer contributions, added fund-raising programs etc. - perhaps even a modest loan - instead of throwing the whole $30 million down the Lehman Brothers black hole, then perhaps we might have had the Leisure Centre, retained all our parks and reserves, still had money in the bank, and kept the ratepayers relatively happy.

Of course, 20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the incoming Council will now have to deal with severe economic restraints and a suspicious electorate. Perhaps the first step in regaining public confidence would be for Council to immediately re-zone all the parks, reserves and larger open green spaces on the Leisure Centre hit-list as dedicated public recreation spaces in perpetuity, so that they would be safe from any further threat. Smaller spaces; say single building block sized lots - little patches of green in an otherwise monotonous suburban streetscape - could then be rezoned on their merits and with regard to community wishes. Perhaps neighbourhood mowing rosters could help save maintenance expenses on these small blocks.

This would leave perhaps three or four properties out of the twenty on the final Leisure Centre hit list – including the Mittagong Sewage Treatment Plant – which could be sold; an idea to which one would imagine very few people would object, and those funds put towards upgrading and covering Bowral Pool. It may not be the ideal solution but it is time to put aside past differences and move on.


Cam Ford

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