Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Will ratepayers fund North Parklands purchase?

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When it comes to the North Parklands, Naracoorte Lucindale Council ought to be “on the front foot”, according to Cr Damien Ross.

As a member of the former 2018-2022 council, Cr Ross was in favour of ratepayers funding the purchase of the North Parklands.

The North Parklands is a 197-hectare site with multiple land uses and is owned by the State Government.

The topic arose at council’s March 28 meeting after Cr Damien Ross asked Mayor Patrick Ross and CEO Trevor Smart for an update of a recent State/Local Government Economic Partnership Forum.

Mayor Ross indicated a lot of people from all around the state travelled a great distance to attend the forum, including most of the state’s 68 mayors.

“It was all about the government and the AUKUS (submarine) program and how, possibly, a windfall that the state would get – some $360 or $380 billion. Something like that,” Mayor Ross said.

“And, the necessity to educate and bring up to speed the entire state within 10 years pretty much to get this project going and asking the local governments around the state to put their shoulder to the wheel.”

But Mayor Ross seemed suspicious it could be “government speak” for councils and their ratepayers to carry some financial burden and responsibility.

“I might be reading between the lines there though, I don’t know.”

Mr Smart said “we weren’t sure what we were going to get because there was no real program put out”.

“But I agree with Mayor Ross – they did indicate – made a slight slip that they could use Local Government,” Mr Smart said.

“So that may have been somewhat accurate.

“They reflected on that we (councils) had good balance sheets, good cash holdings, and low loan liabilities.

“So, my takeaway from that is they want to sign up to an accord with Local Government.

“And it may mean that yes, we will do a lot of the work at our expense to get State/Local Government outcomes.

“So, we probably need to watch that one with some care.”

But Cr Damien Ross suggested the accord meant Local Government would have an audience with government ministers every three months.

He claimed the Local Government Association would then have “more of an opportunity to advocate on our behalf” and councils were probably going to get more favourable outcomes “with more skin in the game”.

“One more thing. One of the things I gather is they (State Government) are going to be selling land,” Cr Damien Ross said.

He said that was already happening elsewhere.

“So they are going to be looking at opportunities. So I suppose for us going forward, it’s probably something we’re probably going to need to probably get on the front foot a bit, I suppose with the North Parklands too.

“If there’s any opportunities in regards to them, as in the State Government looking at selling land to raise capital, it’s probably something we need to be on the front foot with a bit too.”

Mayor Patrick Ross thanked Cr Ross for his thoughts.

There was no further comment or discussion regarding the North Parklands.

Premier Peter Malinauskas who spoke at the State/Local Government Economic Partnership Forum and said in a statement he was pleased to address the Local Government sector.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity in our state to grow and develop our economy, particularly with the AUKUS submarine deal and our decarbonisation pathway,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“Partnering with Local Government will be critical to meet our enormous challenge to achieve the realisation of our opportunity.”

Any properties being sold by the State Government are listed on the Renewal SA website, along with the name of the agency appointed to handle the sale process.

The North Parklands currently are not listed on the site.

Former local Robert Moore last year unveiled a proposal for the North Parklands in a bid to arrest population decline and thwart the continuous reduction in health, hospital and other services.

He proposed a $250 million development over 25 years.

Hailed as the biggest development plan for regional SA it included 500 residential allotments clustered around the Naracoorte Golf Course.

It also involved a convention centre to attract major conferences, motel-style serviced suites, a new aged care home, retirement village and a wetland as well as some larger commercial outlets.

For at least two years the previous 2018 – 2022 council only discussed the proposal behind closed doors.

It eventually issued a survey that enabled people from anywhere to have a say and submit as many forms as they liked while remaining anonymous.

Council claimed it was an “extensive community engagement process” which included 396 anonymous survey responses, of which 255 – 64 percent – said “no” to a development.

The idea for council to purchase the North Parklands sprouted as one of six recommendations last August, just before council slipped into caretaker mode.

Mr Smart’s recommendation for council to purchase the parklands was moved by Cr Monique Crossling and seconded by Cr Tom Dennis, and supported by most members on the previous council, including Cr Damien Ross.

But a final decision was to be made by the new council.

Mr Smart also advised the State Government that his council did not support Mr Moore’s proposal.

As a result at the time Mr Moore cancelled a second meeting in the Naracoorte Town Hall and withdrew his proposal.

Naracoorte Community News 19 April 2023

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.


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