RENT SHOCK: Kulai Preschool director Julie Carey in the school grounds.
RENT SHOCK: Kulai Preschool director Julie Carey in the school grounds. Trevor Veale

Preschool fights rent increase

The threat of a four-fold rent increase has shocked Kulai Preschool into action.

They currently pay $537.16 a quarter but in February they received a letter from Coffs Harbour City Council posing the rent be increased to $2195.00 a quarter.

"When we received the letter we were really taken aback; just very concerned,” preschool director Julie Carey said.

In addition to the rent increase the new lease includes a clause which would essentially allow council to inspect the preschool's finances any time and set a new rent based on what council believes they can afford.

Pat Brown, deputy chair of council's Yandaarra Aboriginal Advisory Committee was surprised by this and a number of other clauses in the new lease.

"Council hasn't had to spend a cent on the pre-school since it opened so why should the rent be put up and they have to be responsible for things like tree maintenance and other costs.”

With such a rental hike Ms Carey says it would be difficult to maintain the services they currently provide to approximately 90 students without an increase in fees.

The preschool is the first of its kind in NSW and was established in the early 60s - before indigenous people were even formally recognised as Australian citizens.

LONG HISTORY: The preschool was established in 1962 before indigenous people were even formally recognised as Australian citizens.
LONG HISTORY: The preschool was established in 1962 before indigenous people were even formally recognised as Australian citizens. Trevor Veale

The matter was raised at last week's Coffs City Council meeting with councillor Sally Townley raising a motion that staff investigate the possibility of transferring ownership of the land from council to the preschool. The motion was passed unanimously.

A similar request has been made by the Toormina Preschool and this was considered at a July council meeting. The Toormina situation is different in that the school sits on community land and council must first apply to the state government to have this changed to operational before it can consider granting it to them. The land for Toormina preschool was given to council by a private family in the 1970s for the purpose of a preschool.

A council representative has confirmed the rental increase proposed for the Kulai Preschool has been put on hold pending the report (into the possibility of transferring land) coming back to council.



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