After years of indecision, false starts and community unrest, Clarence Valley Council will begin construction of the McLachlan Park redevelopment in Maclean after Easter; albeit a staged delivery without some of the promised features listed on the sign at the site.
At last week’s council meeting, councillors agreed to commence construction in the northern and southern ends of the park, which will include all of “the works … and associated costs for: public toilets, pontoons, car park, removal and replacement of the two most southern camphor laurel trees; replacement of levee panels; and, riverside walk”.
Each of the councillors, except Margaret McKenna and Andrew Baker, supported mayor Richie Williamson’s motion, which included the tabling of “bi-monthly information reports” at council meetings.
It was somewhat ironic that Cr Baker was excluded from having any input, as he had successfully put a detailed motion to the February meeting – to receive a report at the March meeting detailing “the estimated costs and constraints” if the council oversaw construction of the project.
Councillor Baker could not participate because the “council sought and received pricing information from [his] employer” after the February decision, the report to council states.
During questions before debate it was revealed that the dirt that rises from the footpath to the levee wall could not be removed at this stage.
Works and civil director Troy Anderson said the wall is only 900mm deep and in eight metre-long sections.
He said the “actual earth on the roadside is supporting the levee” and that a “special design” would be required it the earth was removed.
Councillor Karen Toms asked: “Even though the levee was built and dirt put there years afterwards … if removed, the levee is at risk?”
Troy Anderson: “Yes.”
Mr Anderson said the same problem did not occur in the Stage 1 areas because those sections of the levee were built using “different construction” methods.
During debate, Cr Williamson said that Stage 2 “needs more work” and that he would not support removal of the earth, “after talking to some people”, and that he had “formed the opinion” that the earth was placed there to “strengthen that section of the levee” sometime in the early 1990s.
He said there was “consensus in the community that a flattened park is more favourable than the design currently [for the stage 2] area, and we need to do some more work on that”, including more investigation into the levee wall’s integrity.
He said that the two remaining camphor laurel trees “get a reprieve for now”.
He said that he would like the council to “engage the U3A men’s shed to help us with the design and manufacture of some of the furniture items” in Stage 2.
Councillor Margaret McKenna said she was pleased to see the project start, but didn’t think it was the “best outcome”; so would vote against the proposal.
Councillor Arthur Lysaght said “this is the best outcome under the circumstances”.
“This has been going on for many years now; it’s been backwards and forwards to council God knows how many times,” he said.
He thought the $206,700 contingency (15 per cent) allowance could mean the project would come in under budget. He hoped the work “would start tomorrow and they don’t leave it until after Easter”.
The mayor chuckled and pointed out that the Highland Gathering uses the park over the Easter weekend.
Cr Jim Simmons wondered how the levee wall had stood up to flooding during the 20-odd years before the dirt was placed. He looked forward to seeing an engineer’s report on the levee’s integrity.
Councillor Karen Toms said that the staged proposal was “not really what the people want”.
She also questioned access issues for people with disabilities accessing the riverside walk.
She supported the motion on the basis that “something is better than nothing”, but said “it’s a little sad for Maclean that it’s ended up like this”.
Cr Jason Kingsley said he would be “happy for Mr. Anderson to order the back hoes and trucks to go and park there prior to Easter so people are aware that things are going to commence after Easter”.
He said the park’s redevelopment had “been a long and exhausting process”.
“Personally, I have found it very frustrating … and on behalf of the community it has been very frustrating,” he said.
“But in saying that it has been us [the councillors] that have delayed this process on numerous occasions … in the attempt to provide the best possible outcome for the community even though they might not see it that way.”
He also stated that he would advocate strongly for “decent access” and that “Mr Anderson would ensure there would be equal access at Stage 2”.
Cr Sue Hughes said that she thought “the Maclean people … will like the outcome when they see it”.
“Something is better than nothing,” she said.
“…Bring it on, let’s start, let’s get the machines happening … so by a few months down the track Maclean will be very proud of what we have achieved.”
The mayor emphasised that the areas in Stage 2 had been designed to incorporate equal access, but warned that the level of equal access in Stage 2 would be dependent on whether or not the earth mound stays or goes.