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Public land to become operational

Geoff Helisma |

A Clarence Valley Council (CVC) proposal to reclassify 163 public land parcels from “community” to “operational” is currently on exhibition, with submissions accepted up until 4pm July 2.

Councillors made the decision to reclassify the land parcels at the May 17, 2016 council meeting, as part of CVC’s “key strategy … to assist with achieving long term financial sustainability”, along with the rationalisation of its depots and office accommodation, with an aim to reduce “duplication and operating costs”.

The council states in the exhibited documentation that “analysis” of some of the land parcels “raised questions over the legality of resolutions of the former Maclean and Ulmarra councils and the Lower Clarence county council, to classify their public land holdings as per the requirements” of the Local Government Act.

“As a consequence, and to remove any legal ambiguity”, CVC proposes to reclassify the land “operational as originally intended” by the former government entities.
The planning proposal defines ‘community land’, in part, as “land intended for public access and use”, which “cannot be sold … leased, licensed or [have] any other estate granted over the land for more than 21 years (without ministerial consent)”.
“Community land would ordinarily comprise land such as a public park, sportsground or bushland,” whereas ‘operational land’ has “no special restrictions” and “would ordinarily comprise land that facilitates the carrying out by a council of its functions … such as council offices, a works depot, sewer or water pump station or a council quarry”.

The proposal states that an “investigation of the social and economic effects of the planning proposal is not considered necessary” and that “there are unlikely to be any social and economic effects arising from the reclassification of the specified public lands to operational”.

Many of the land parcels are drainage reserves, reservoir sites, CVC works depot sites, sewerage treatment plant sites and the like, and there are several vacant lots in Maclean and Townsend.
However, sites in the Maclean area include Ferry Park (currently leased out at $54,952.61 per year), the Maclean library, the civic centre (currently leased out at $33,825 per year) and the council chambers, and council office space fronted by River and Short streets.

Apart from income from the leases, the proposal notes “no financial benefit for CVC is expected” as a result of reclassification.
Sites within the future Yamba motorway corridor are to be reclassified to “enable the future provision of this road asset and to permit the land to be better maintained and managed in the meantime”.
Former Maclean shire council town planner, Warren Rackham, who resides in Maclean, fears that reclassification “opens the gate for council to sell off [some of] these lands”.
“I do strongly object to Maclean council chambers, the former Maclean shire offices, civic hall, Maclean library, the slipway, part of the Cameron Park car park and the riverfront land behind the Maclean Hotel all being proposed for operational designation and the subsequent potential for these properties to be sold off,” he said.
Mr Rackham cited the recent auction of 1 MacNaughton Place, Maclean, as an example.

The reclassification proposal can be downloaded from CVC’s website.