LONG time South Gippsland resident Adrian Fyfe took Council to task last Wednesday for its takeover of caravan parks at Port Welshpool and Yanakie and planned takeover of Waratah Bay Caravan Park.
Mr Fyfe made his scathing attack in a late submission to the draft 2015-2016 Council Budget.
“I take a general interest in what is occurring in the shire and, like so many other ratepayers, have concerns with the increases in rates and other expenses since amalgamation,” said the Foster retiree, explaining why he was addressing Council.
He said he was prompted to speak because of the proposal in the budget to allocate $20,000 for a consultant’s report on a proposed takeover of Waratah Bay Caravan Park. Furthermore, he said, he believed that Council had failed to identify infrastructure problems at the caravan parks at Yanakie and Port Welshpool (Long Jetty) and as a result was incurring continued expenses to bring them up to an acceptable standard since the takeover.
Mr Fyfe accused Council of a conflict of interest “by being responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act (Caravan Parks and Moveable Dwellings Registration and Standards) Regulations 2010 and Statutory Rule 49/2010, and currently controlling three caravan parks”.
He said that he, on the other hand, had no conflict of interest, and was not speaking on behalf of anyone running a caravan park. He simply wanted, he said, to get the message across that “in my opinion, the council made a mistake to take over the parks on Crown land – a mistake that will be compounded should they go ahead with the takeover of Waratah Bay when the lease expires in 2017”.
Mr Fyfe alleged that in 2011 Council failed to support a $50,000 grant application to the state government from the proprietors of Waratah Bay Caravan Park and as a result the application was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the shire applied for funding from the same area to assist with preparation of a master plan to evaluate the caravan parks on Crown land in the shire – and was successful to the tune of $120,000. A consultant was contracted to prepare a report. “To date, I know of no one outside of Council who has seen the report and it does not appear to be available for public scrutiny,” said Mr Fyfe.
When the leases for Yanakie and Port Welshpool caravan parks came up for renewal, the lessee at Yanakie went to considerable expense, said Mr Fyfe, to have a professional submission prepared. Council, however, made the decision to proceed with the takeovers and decided that a sum of almost $400,000 set aside to upgrade facilities at Waratah Bay would be diverted to work required at Yanakie and Port Welshpool. “The result of this was that once again Waratah Bay was deprived of funding to upgrade facilities,” claimed Mr Fyfe.
He also questioned why Council hadn’t worked with the lessees to resolve areas of concern. After all, he pointed out, Council proceeded with a new lease for the caravan park at Korumburra, why not the other two? “Could it be that a decision had been made to take the parks over and it was just a matter of setting up scenarios to justify the actions?”
Mr Fyfe queried why Council was spending $20,000 on consultants when the decision appeared to have already been made to take over the park at Waratah Bay. He said, “The proprietors at Waratah Bay have already been informed that the lease will not be renewed – now where is the transparency in this?”
This, said Mr Fyfe, was despite regular inspections at the park raising no areas of concern. “I believe there are no ‘permanents,’ no vans breaching policies and the lessees are doing their best to run the park in accordance with the laws.”
He suggested Council consider the apparently successful management model at the caravan parks at Walkerville and Lester Road (Yanakie), in which committees of management run the parks.
Mr Fyfe concluded by asking Council not to proceed with a takeover of Waratah Bay Caravan Park, but instead leave it with private owners on a re-negotiated lease, and develop an exit strategy in relation to the parks at Yanakie and Port Welshpool. Thirdly, he said, “with the conflict of interest, Council cannot perform its role and enforce the relevant regulations, or expect the community to believe they could do so objectively – another reason to leave caravan parks to private individuals”.
On behalf of Council, the mayor, Cr Jeanette Harding, promised to consider Mr Fyfe’s submission and get back to him with some answers.