From the Newsroom

VIC rezoning supported – sale details still unknown

Geoff Helisma


At the March 22 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, a majority of councillors supported rezoning the land upon which the former South Grafton Visitor Information Centre (VIC) sits, which was a requirement to finalise the sale of the property.

The current council has been frustrated by the previous council delegating power to the general manager to make a deal.

Each of the current councillors has at some time stated their opposition or dissatisfaction with the VIC’s closure.

On the Wednesday following the CVC meeting, 103.1 Lovin’ Life presenter, Damo, asked the mayor: “In regard to the VIC, before the election were you aware that the sale had almost been completed?

Mayor Ian Tiley said that it “has not been completed”.

“The contracts weren’t exchanged until the 12th of February,” he said.

“I supported the return of the VIC, I believe that there’s a majority of councillors who are of that view, but yesterday we took the pragmatic, realistic position….

“There could be incredible costs if we wanted to change course at this late [date].

“So, we supported the rezoning proposal [and], in due course, we’ll be told [who the] the purchaser [is] and the contract price.”

Meanwhile at the CVC meeting, Cr Peter Johnstone moved to “note the submissions”, but “not support the planning proposal to rezone the subject land from SP3 Tourist to B5 Business”.

Prior to debate, acting general manager [AGM] Laura Black told councillors that there would be “financial implications” and said to councillors that they would be “putting the sale in jeopardy” if they did not support the rezoning.

Cr Debrah Novak asked the AGM if she could “expand on what the financial implication are”.

Ms Black said she provided an email “maybe before the February CVC meeting, in the last few weeks in any case, that details the financial and possible legal implications of, um; what this [motion] says is you’re withdrawing from the sale, largely, so, the implications of that, I’m sorry, I don’t have those details in front of me”.

Cr Johnstone said he had “no desire” to put CVC at risk regarding “financial or legal issues” if his motion was supported and subsequently voted against his motion.

He said, “I don’t know if we have, at this point, any choice,” but his “disappointment with the decisions that have been made in the past” needed “to be made clear.”

Cr Greg Clancy also said he didn’t want to “put CVC in a dire financial position, but the problem is, as councillors, we weren’t aware of what was going on and, all through the election campaign some councillors were saying we want to reopen the VIC, because we didn’t know that it had been sold”.

Cr Toms said that “we’re not here today to talk about … the sale of the [property], this is about a planning proposal that [the previous council] unanimously voted for”.

“So, to now say that you’re not happy to go ahead with this has some serious ramifications that we need to consider,” she said.

“…Yes, we found out that it had been sold, but let’s be honest and take responsibility; we gave delegated authority to the GM last year … so we can’t just change our minds.”

Cr Johnstone’s motion was lost; only Cr Clancy was in support; Cr Bill Day was absent due to illness.

Debating the five-point motion to complete the rezoning proposal, Cr Steve Pickering said he had “wanted to see [the VIC] reopened” over the past four years”.

He said that now he is “in a position to do something about it”, there have been “too many decisions made by the previous council” to stop the rezoning and sale.

Cr Toms said, she, “too, was not happy with what happened with our tourism … and there were many times I felt the need to put in a notice of motion, but I’m not silly and I know it wouldn’t have got up, so I didn’t do that”.

She said that “once it becomes a resolution”, councillors are bound to “accept that is the council’s position”.

Councillors Pickering, Novak, Whaites, Tiley, Smith, Toms were in favour; councillors Johnstone and Clancy were opposed; Cr Bill Day was absent due to illness.