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Clarence Valley Council has voted 7 to 2 to accept a $16.256 million tender from Bennett Constructions for the redevelopment of Yamba’s Treelands Drive Community Centre. Image: CVC

Treelands Drive Community Centre tender accepted

Clarence Valley councillors have voted to accept a $16,256 million tender to redevelop Yamba’s Treelands Drive Community Centre in a split seven to two votes.

At the September 25 council meeting, Cr Karen Toms moved the officer’s recommendation, which was seconded by Cr Debrah Novak, that council:

  1. Accept the tender from Bennett Constructions for Yamba Library and Community Centre Redevelopment at a cost of $16,256,053.00 (GST inclusive) to be funded in accordance with the funding strategy.
  2. Delegate authority to the General Manager to approve appropriately deemed variations to the Contract and those variations be reported to Council within the Quarterly Budget Review Statement once the Contract is finalised.

Cr Bill Day questioned an email obtained by Yamba CAN Inc via a Freedom of Information GIPA request about the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery BLER funding that stated they were aware council was working on an option B for the project, which would have been a permissible scope variation to refurbish the existing Community Centre rather than knock down and rebuild a new centre, and asked the General Manager Laura Black to explain to the community how it was dealt with.

Ms Black said she couldn’t answer Cr Day’s question without having all the associated paperwork which showed the journey the process has been through, including dates when conversations or emails happened.

Cr Day then asked if option B wasn’t a viable option, why was it presented to the community, who were asked to nominate either option A or option B.

“The option B that went to the community was a bare minimum project that did not need to meet the BLER funds, because by that point in time council had resolved to transfer the funds to the Regional Aquatic Centre, so the option B was a totally council funded plan,” Ms Black said.

Cr Toms said the project had been on a long journey that started in 2006 and she hoped councillors would support her motion.

She said once the $11.1 million in BLER funding was exhausted, after GST is excluded, council would be required to fund approximately $3,600,000 to get this “wonderful new community space”.

“This is not a thought bubble, but option B always was from a small community who think they are representing the whole Yamba community, and they are not,” Cr Toms said.

“It’s just madness to think that we could just tizzy up the existing building, because if you think that, you haven’t been there for a long time.”

Cr Day told Cr Toms he made it very clear when he asked his questions, and he asked them in the hope that the explanation would satisfy the community.

“I don’t feel that I’ve been fully informed along the way, and I’m going to vote against it,” Cr Day said.

Cr Jeff Smith said it had been “an absolutely torturous task to get to this point” and it goes totally against the grain to demolish a building, but council did prevent the Wooli St, Yamba, hall and library from being sold.

“At this point we have got no other alternative with the time we have left, and that’s why I have changed my mind,” he said.

Speaking against the motion, Cr Greg Clancy said he supported the Yamba community having a new library and facilities, but he could not support the demolition of a building that is only 23 years old.

“When I moved the motion in December 2022 to proceed with option B, we had plenty of time to develop that, we now don’t have that time,” he said.

Speaking for the motion, Cr Novak said we are here to support what the community needs.

“We need a centre that’s going to take our community into the next age, the next era,” she said.

Mayor Peter Johnstone said he changed his mind about the centre and while he did not agree with demolishing the building, he didn’t want to have to give the funding back to the government.

The motion was carried seven votes to two, with Cr’s Day and Clancy voting against.

Accepting the tender will see the existing Community Centre demolished and a new centre featuring a library, an art gallery space, a youth space, a commercial/community kitchen, meeting rooms with flexible configuration and accessible amenities.

Rodney Stevens