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Community groups vote ‘no confidence’ in park upgrade

Geoff Helisma

The Greater Maclean Community Action Group, Maclean – The Scottish Town in Australia Association, Maclean Cruising Yacht Club and Facebook group, The Clarence Forum, have issued a joint statement to the Independent, saying that they are “gravely concerned at the manner in which council is conducting the redevelopment of McLachlan Park”.
The statement alleges that the “two core elements” of the park’s redevelopment have been deleted as a result of “a latent funding shortfall: the boardwalk, which allows the highly attractive amenity for community and visitors alike to wholly engage with the river; and, the levelling of the park to enable full-width use and to make it more accessible to all”.
“The deletion of the boardwalk, with its replacement by three small decks labelled ‘viewing platforms’ and the terracing, rather than the levelling of the park, are totally unacceptable deviations from … the [exhibited] King and Campbell [draft master] plan that was signed off by both council and the community,” the statement says.
The groups believe that “time and money” have been wasted on various consultancies.
“We are now completely disillusioned with a council that … has commissioned yet another consultant, Vee Consulting of Brisbane, at considerable expense and completely changed the agreed course without even the courtesy of public input,” the statement says.
“…We have seen the almost paranoid focus on the removal of the camphor laurel trees in the park.
“Effectively, council now intends to remove four trees with funding drawn from deleting the single most important part of the refurbishment plan, the boardwalk. We ask why?
“We contend that it is because the very basic and simplistic plan of management (POM) document for this park was just one of many such plans adopted in bulk across the Clarence Valley, in or about September 2003.”
The groups point out that the POM states it should be “‘reviewed after a five-year period to ensure implementation and because further issues can arise over a short period of time’.
“Twelve years later there has been no such review conducted; the plan is, by its own provisions, outdated and irrelevant unless and until it is reviewed through the proper public process,” the statement says.
“It [the council] has not followed the review and updating provisions of its own plan, yet it is selectively drawing on parts of it as an excuse to ‘legitimising’ the bulldozing down of these heritage trees – and at the cost of our boardwalk.”
The groups are also concerned about confusion regarding the accuracy of various ‘costs’ of the redevelopment, citing seemingly conflicting information released to the public through various means: newspapers, council papers, council press releases and radio.
“This embarrassing episode suggests council is not in control of the project’s planning, financing, resourcing or management,” the statement says.
“If it were otherwise, council might have prioritised the essential elements of the project and deferred funding for the non-essential removal of trees until last.”
The groups underline their frustration by signing off with: “We are all heartily sick and tired of this endless debate and debacle, but we intend to maintain our vision and desire for a better value outcome for the people of Maclean.
“However, we are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with an intransigent, recalcitrant council, seemingly incapable of listening to the people it purports to represent.
“Council gives lip service, then proceeds to tell us all what we want and will get.
“It’s certainly not democratic, representative government!”