The Coffs Harbour public pool.
The Coffs Harbour public pool.

Management of another major sporting venue in doubt

AS the company Lane 4 prepares to walk away from its pool lease, there are fears for the management of another major sporting facility in Coffs Harbour.

 

The process of awarding leases to corporations over local contractors has been a controversial one, and there's been a lack of transparency around the approach, one Coffs Harbour City Councillor claims.

Cr Sally Townley said the first Councillors learnt of the pool deal back in 2017 was through the media.

"And it's not the first time councillors have learnt of major decisions through the media.

"A recent example would be the plan to decommission Woolgoolga dam and sell water to blueberry growers."

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Coffs Coast Bird Observers have been coming to Woolgoolga dam for more than 16 years.
Coffs Coast Bird Observers have been coming to Woolgoolga dam for more than 16 years.

And as Council prepares to take on the lease of the region's three public swimming pools by mid-October, there's growing uncertainty around the lease of the Coffs Harbour Basketball Stadium.

"It is coming up for re-tender and I've been told Basketball NSW doesn't want to continue," Dr Townley said.

There had been speculation in recent months that the Lane 4 lease was on shaky ground, and on July 30 it was announced council would be taking over management.

The arrangement was clearly in trouble when, on two occasions, the company asked for financial assistance.

Although the impacts of COVID-19 have been blamed, Dr Townley pointed out the first request for $300,000 was made in February but Councillors were not informed of this until later.

"I was a bit surprised that they wrote to us in February pre-COVID, but we didn't see that letter until mid-April, mid-covid."

Protest in May 2017 when it was revealed the lease for the Coffs Harbour War Memorial Swimming Pool mangment contract would go to Lane 4 Pty ltd.
Protest in May 2017 when it was revealed the lease for the Coffs Harbour War Memorial Swimming Pool mangment contract would go to Lane 4 Pty ltd.

There was a huge community backlash and protests outside council chambers in 2017 when it was announced Lane 4 would take over.

Cr Paul Amos had concerns about the arrangement and raised a motion that would ensure regular reports for councillors on pool management and progress with certain lease agreements like the inclusion of a cafe (which never eventuated).

This motion was lost.

"I was puzzled by that. It was just such a contentious item at that time and I wanted to make sure we were meeting our obligations as Councillors with regard to due diligence."

With management to be handed over in mid-October, it's unclear what the cost burden for the council will be.

Group Leader Financial Services and Logistics Mark Griffioen says it's too early to tell.

"We're looking at that now and a report will go to Council on what those costs will be," Mr Griffioen said.

He says there are more than 50 casual and permanent staff employed at the pool and Council will aim to retain them all.



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