More of the McLachlan Park debacle

Ed, Two of the 100 year old shade trees in Maclean’s McLachlan Park are now gone. The principal justification used by Clarence Valley Council and the handful of Chamber of Commerce “luminaries” who also supported the removal of the trees, is a statement in the McLachlan Park Plan of Management that these trees were “declared noxious in the Clarence Valley Weeds Authority control area which includes Maclean”. The Plan of Management also specifies as an action: “Remove Camphor Laurel trees and replace with suitable endemic species”. The incorrect use of the word “endemic” in this context gives an indication of the overall poor calibre of the document. During discussion on the Park renovations in Council, I recall one Councillor declared that “the money is there, let’s do it”, referring to the immediate removal of all four trees. Councillor, in case you haven’t noticed, the money ISN’T there. It has been thrown away on consultant’s reports that have subsequently been scrapped, and a very expensive toilet that will, thankfully, now have to be connected to the sewer main across the road instead of Council’s original intent of a septic holding tank adjacent to the public barbecue. Was this all because the work wasn’t properly researched, scoped, and planned? I would suggest probably yes. The overall resulting budget shortfall has resulted in most of the original scope of work for the Park upgrade being scrapped. It’s just a thought, but why can’t the budget deficit be covered with the proceeds of the sale of Council assets in Maclean that were created by the residents of Maclean? Whatever is happening now is not being disclosed to the community. That in itself is a concern. There are 46 other “actions” identified in the Plan of Management. Not one of those that might actually deliver an increased amenity in the Park has been delivered. The $150,000 State funding for the second pontoon expires in 4 weeks time. Nothing has been done. Is that now lost? The existing programmed pontoon replacement was to be “leveraged off the Park upgrade work”. Nothing has been done. Will that asset now continue to deteriorate until it sinks? The $240,000 of improvements to the Park planned in the “Clarence Valley Contributions Plan 2011, Open Spaces and Recreation Facilities Works Schedule” and bearing a striking similarity to the 7 capital items on page 15 of the Management Plan. All were to be partially funded from “S94 and the Town Improvement Budget”? This work was programmed for completion by 2016? Nothing has been done. In the meantime, the works were very discretely slotted into the Park Upgrade project, but now to be funded by the Cameron Park and CBD car park sale. I wonder what ever happened to those S94 and Town Improvement funds allocated to McLachlan Park back in 2011? And before the Council apologists in the Chamber of Commerce faint in a fit of apoplexy, just remember that the funding for this debacle was achieved by Council selling off a substantial part of the only other open green space in the town and most of the CBD car park, with the blessing of the Chamber. Councillors, if you genuinely wanted to make some kind of environmental statement by cutting down four Camphor Laurel trees, there are upwards of two thousand in the Clarence Valley. You could have taken any four of them without the distress this has caused to a great many people in Maclean principally the more elderly residents and without depleting the funds set aside for the Park upgrade. Misguided? Yes. Some malice? A little bit of “payback” to the few who had the courage to object? Perhaps. A ridiculous diversion of funds from the original scope of the upgrade? Most definitely! I have no doubt the intent of many Councillors is honourable and that the end result of the Park upgrade will be good. But it could have been done in a much better way without the secrecy, within the original budget, and much, much earlier. The damage done to the credibility of Council is considerable. The damage done to public confidence in the ability of senior management of Council to perform even minor projects like this within budget and to program, is irreparable. Ian Saunders – Hon Secretary, Greater Maclean Community Action Group