PLANS to replace the rotunda at Waratah Bay Caravan Park – and save the old Sandy Point Hall at the same time – could all go up in smoke, quite literally, with negotiations between the parties involved at breaking point.
“If we don’t sort this out soon, I’ll have to have a bonfire and burn the hall. I’ll be left with no choice,” said Jim Harry.
The lessee of the caravan park, which is owned by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, with the South Gippsland Shire Council as the committee of management, it was Mr Harry who had the bright idea of moving the old hall at Sandy Point to the caravan park, where the rotunda is in desperate need of replacement.
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” said Mr Harry. “It is part of the master plan completed for all the shire caravan parks to replace the rotunda. By moving the hall – and I’m a licensed builder so I know what I’m doing – I’d be saving the shire the $100,000 or so it would cost to erect a new shelter.”
When Mr Harry made his offer, the Sandy Point community was, by all accounts, delighted that the old hall on the TP Taylor Reserve which would otherwise be demolished to make way for the new community centre, was going to get a new lease of life.
“Now their dreams are shattered,” said John Stone, who manages the caravan park for Mr Harry and has been assisting him in his negotiations with Council.
Mr Harry missed the advertisement calling for tenders to remove the hall, and it was won by South Gippsland Quarries. However, shire officers agreed to accept Mr Harry’s late tender if it was all right with the quarry company. Phil Knox of South Gippsland Quarries was fine with that, as he had only been going to take the hall to the tip.
In late June or early July Mr Harry arranged for sub-contractors to remove the hall from the TP Taylor Reserve. They had cut it into four sections and put it on a truck when word came through from the committee of management – the shire – that the building could not be re-erected – or even stored in pieces – at the caravan park until there was a permit.
Mr Harry cast around for an alternative arrangement and was very grateful when Phil Gale, a long-time Waratah Bay resident, came to the rescue and offered to store the hall on a block of his land.
Mr Harry’s relief was short-lived, however, for late in July Mr Gale was informed by the shire that the shell of the hall could not stay where it was on a small residential block but would have to be reduced to a flat pack and stored on a more appropriate site, such as in his farm machinery shed. Otherwise he would be liable for a fine.
Jim Harry wrote back to the shire, arguing that he could not expect Mr Gale, who had already been generous enough, to store the hall shell in his shed, and asking that it be permitted to go into the park. He was also concerned that to move it again would incur additional costs; it had already cost him about $2,500.
“The park is at its quietest at present (between June and September) and we are very keen to complete the replacement rotunda project well before the upcoming spring influx of visitors,” wrote Mr Harry.
The shire was not to be swayed. Mr Gale was advised that he would be liable for a fine if he continued to store the shell of the old building without a permit.
At the suggestion of Coastal-Promontory ward councillor Kieran Kennedy, Mr Harry raised the matter at last week’s meeting of shire council, but he got nowhere. Mayor Warren Raabe advised it was a procedural matter and was not prepared to comment further at the council meeting.
In response to enquiries from ‘The Mirror,’ Shire Director of Development Services Phil Stone explained that Mr Harry should have applied for a permit to re-erect the hall at the caravan park under the Planning and Environment Act and this he had not done. He said the hall shell in its present condition was unsightly and potentially dangerous and could not be left at the Gale block for the two or three months that it would take to get a permit.
Phil Stone acknowledged that the shire’s stance appears to be harsh and he said he had some sympathy for Mr Harry, “but he should have known he needed permission, he is a builder, after all”. He said he’d like to see the derelict rotunda replaced, but he was concerned that accidents could occur on the hall shell if it was left on the Gale block – and the shire would be liable.
“We are the responsible authority under the Planning and Environment Act.”
Phil Stone said he was still in consultation with Mr Harry and all efforts were being made to find a satisfactory solution.
When questioned on this issue, Mr Harry acknowledged that as a registered commercial builder he was well aware of his responsibilities and the need to apply for a permit to erect the building at the caravan park and intended to do so at the first possible opportunity. He is not able to do so, he said, until the Department of Sustainability and Environment has given its OK. He is terribly disappointed that it has taken so long for the committee of management for the caravan park to obtain the relevant permission. He is ready to move as soon as it is obtained. There is no one more concerned than him, he said, about any possible accidents that may occur (though the building is stored well away from the general public).
Although he does not yet have written permission, Mr Harry has been advised verbally by the committee of management that DSE has provided an in-principle agreement. He is cautious, he said, about applying for a building permit until written approval is received. He is ready to lodge his building application as soon as direction is given on structural issues such as the type of cladding required on the resited building. He reiterated that he was still prepared to meet the substantial costs of reconstruction himself as he knows that Council has no funding set aside – despite the acknowledgment of the need for replacement of the existing rotunda.
A clearly frustrated Jim Harry emailed ‘The Mirror’ on Friday, saying: “Not far off burning it. The shire is definitely going to fine [me]. It’s going to cost me big time – about 5K because it’s sitting on Phil Gale’s place – with his permission and I’m doing it for their benefit and everyone else at my cost! Complication reigns supreme.”