From the Newsroom

Yamba library and Wooli St Hall slated for sale

Geoff Helisma


At last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, it came as a shock to Cr Bill Day when Cr Karen Toms took him to task when he put a motion to “review estimates and design of the Treelands Drive Community Precinct upgrade and reconsult the community about this project, and not proceed with the planning proposal to enable the sale of 45 Wooli Street, Yamba at this stage”.

Councillors were considering a report that “updated the Treelands Drive Community Centre [precinct] upgrade project and the funding plan to support the project”, which sought approval to reclassify the Wooli Street property from ‘community’ to ‘operational’, so it can be sold to fund a shortfall to complete the community precinct.

The report to council stated that the estimated cost of completing the precinct had increased from $13.186m to $14.583m, a further contingency of $1.2m was required for “risk mitigation”, and that the sale of the Wooli Street property, valued at $2.8million, “would provide sufficient funds to cover the project shortfall”.

Cr Toms asked Cr Day, “This is a pretty radical change; why do you feel the need to review estimates when we have professional quantity surveyors who are doing that for us?

Cr Day said, “This project’s been a moving feast over four years; only a matter of weeks ago we saw design updates…

“The construction industry has witnessed price increases of up to 30 per cent [and] I think it’s time the community came along with us and is informed of these things.

“…Just from talking to … residents of Yamba, they’re scratching their heads.”

At the July CVC meeting, Cr Day’s motion failed, with councillors Johnstone, Novak, Pickering, Smith and Toms against (Cr Whaites was absent), however, a foreshadowed motion put by Cr Debrah Novak – to defer the item to the September CVC meeting and discuss it at the August workshop – was unanimously supported.

During debate, Cr Day reiterated his concerns and said he was “not sure the community supports” demolishing the library and hall and selling the land.

“Let’s ask them,” he said.

Deputy mayor Greg Clancy said he shared Cr Day’s concerns and that people he had spoken with, “like the community hall, and that the new hall [at Treelands Drive] will not cater for an entertainment venue; so, there would be no improvement on the existing hall … I don’t think the community has been consulted enough.”

Cr Toms said, “So now we’re going to look at the designs [for the precinct] because people on Facebook don’t like it, what about people who do like it?

“That library is not fit for purpose; it needs to be enlarged.

“There are so many things we’ve done to move forward on this project, and now we have a couple of councillors not liking it because they didn’t know.”

Cr Toms said that the councillors supporting Cr Day’s motion should “have asked questions to find out about” the project’s progress, “instead of dropping a bombshell here today … to review the [cost] estimate again and to review the designs”.

“It’s very disappointing, to reach back and stop things that have been years in the planning; let’s educate people [on Facebook] not just put a stop [to it] because you don’t know about it … teach the people a few things,” she said.

Mayor Tiley said, “The last speaker … isn’t listening to the people; many people have approached me about being in the dark on this project; I support what Cr Novak is proposing.

“Let’s talk about it and get the right story out there.”

Cr Novak said that she “shares some of Cr Day’s concerns … [but] we don’t have the time to pose those questions [again] and do the right thing for the project”.

In his right of reply, Cr Day said he agreed with Cr Toms, that the project was “not a secret”, but said “it hasn’t been effectively flagged with the community”.

“Consulting with the community may give us the green light,” he said, “but it may also provide improvements in the design [of the precinct] for the people who use it; that would be radical.”

He said he didn’t “have a great problem” with Cr Novak’s foreshadowed motion, “but I prefer what’s on the table here.”