SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council agreed at the August 24 meeting to proceed with the sale of six out of seven of the latest batch of properties proposed in the Strategic Review of Landholdings Project.
- Sutherland Lane, Welshpool (rear of Main Street);
- 3-5 Marine Parade, Venus Bay;
- 5 Sloan Avenue, Leongatha;
- 6A Warralong Court, Leongatha;
- 13 Symmons Street, Leongatha;
- 11 Smith Street, Loch.
Council agreed not to sell 29 River Drive, Tarwin Lower.
A total of 315 submissions were received in relation to the proposed land sales, with the vast majority relating to the sale of the River Drive property. Of these, 20 submitters elected to be heard in support of their submission. The submissions were heard in closed session at a Special Meeting of Council on July 13.
Most of the other submissions were in support of the sale of various properties.
No submissions were received for 82A Victoria Street, Toora. This means Council can proceed to remove the reservation status, create appropriate easements, and prepare the property for sale.
The main concerns from the community about the proposed sale of 29 River Drive included:
- A market is held on the site and funds generated help to support the adjacent mechanics Hall;
- The community comes together at the market;
- Local flora needs to be preserved;
- Tour de Tarwin is held on the site;
- The craft shop members donate funds to district community groups;
- The school bus and mobile library park on the site, which was donated by the Fisher family;
- The Shire of Woorayl lent $9,000 to a community group to construct the craft shop.
Shire officers recommended against the sale of the River Drive property and councillors voted unanimously not to sell.
Whether to sell (or not) the Marine Parade property was far more contentious. Cr Kieran Kennedy, who lives in Venus Bay, was firmly against the sale. He maintained that the people of Venus Bay had been “fighting tooth and nail for 30 years to retain open spaces” in the township. “They are frustrated, they know that this Council doesn’t listen,” he insisted.
Cr Don Hill agreed with Cr Kennedy, saying: “Venus Bay is bereft of parks” and the property should be turned into a park.
Cr Jeanette Harding, ignoring all the other properties across the shire slated for sale by Council, said: “Since amalgamation we’ve done nothing except sell bits of Venus Bay. Are we trying to get rid of Venus Bay? Why always Venus Bay?”
Cr Andrew McEwen asserted that Venus Bay was being treated as a cash register for activities in Leongatha. “Venus Bay is being treated as the cash cow for vanity projects of councillors. We will have to buy land for parks if Venus Bay keeps growing as expected,” he added.
Cr Lorraine Brunt took issue with this last remark, reminding her fellow councillor that growth in Venus Bay was limited because the township was not sewered. She suggested that infrastructure in Venus Bay could be improved from the proceeds of any land sale.
“There has been some licence taken with the facts,” said Cr Jim Fawcett, disputing the paucity of open space in Venus Bay alleged by Cr Kennedy et al.
“A number of pocket parks were inappropriately created as a result of developments in earlier decades. They create a valuable asset to the adjoining neighbours. Council’s problem is that we have a number of these and we don’t do anything with them other than mow,” he said.
Cr Fawcett said that he recognised that Council needed to do more work in the shire’s coastal communities and selling land assets would help.
The decision was made to sell the Marine Parade land, Crs Fawcett, Bob Newton, Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks, Brunt and Mohya Davies voting for the sale, with Crs Kennedy, Hill, Harding and McEwen voting against it.
Only Cr Kennedy was against the sale of 5 Sloane Avenue, Leongatha. “I will be supporting the community,” he pronounced.
The submission against the sale related to the historical use of the site as a playground. However, even Cr Fawcett, who said he had happy childhood memories of playing at the site, considered it should be sold since its usage had decreased and the sale could assist an adjoining neighbour.
“You judge an asset for its use, you measure that and be prepared to sell and use the proceeds for another use,” he explained his reasoning. “Without [the proceeds from the sale of shire assets] we would struggle to do good things.”
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks agreed, noting there had been expressions of interest in the purchase of the property from the hospital and another neighbour.
A discussion ensued as to whether or not the proceeds of sales should be returned to the respective community and whether this had ever been the case. Cr Harding and Cr Hill maintained that the proceeds used to be spent in the local community, but Crs Fawcett and Cr Newton said this had not been the case as far back as they could remember. “It’s always been a case of Council using its discretion,” said Cr Fawcett.
Cr Kennedy said that there was no need to sell council land as the community only wanted infrastructure renewed and maintained, not newly built, and he would never support Council’s land sales program.
“The community has come to expect facilities of a high standard,” countered Cr Brunt. “And we need resources and funds to do it.”