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Local News

Controversial centre costs blow out

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Treelands Drive Community Centre building

Controversial centre costs blow out

 

By Tim Howard

An update on the progress of the controversial Treelands Drive Community Centre in Yamba reveals its cost has blown out to almost $18 million.

An original cost estimate in 2018 when the proposal went out for public comment was $10.7 million.

When the tender was accepted late last year it was $16.25 million which has now risen to $17.9 million.

It’s acknowledged there have been a number of design changes in that period, but some of these were considered necessary to keep costs down.

Clarence Valley Council released the information last week, also revealing a completion date of June 2025.

While heavy machinery was rapidly removing the original community centre in West Yamba, community members have continued to question the decision-making process that led to it.

The latest question to be answered concerns the legal advice which convinced the Clarence Valley
Council to change tack early last year after it had resolved just two months earlier to refurbish the original building and extend the existing building to include a library at the back.

At the February 28 meeting last year, the council voted to rescind its resolution made in December 2022, to pursue a refurbishment of the original centre, a proposal labelled Option B.

The rescission motion was always controversial.

It did not have the signatures of three councillors calling for the rescission and was instead raised by staff, who flagged concerns Option B would lose it’s  the $11.1 million Bushfire Local Economic Recovery grant.

Treelands Drive Community Centre construction.

An update on the progress of the controversial Treelands Drive Community Centre in Yamba reveals its cost has blown out to almost $18 million.

Councils’ business paper also said Option B did not meet the grant guidelines and the approved allocated funding.

It also relied on some legal advice from the Office of Local Government that has since become contentious.

The advice, which then Mayor Cr Ian Tiley read to the council on February 28, caused a number of councillors to change positions and support Option A, which resulted in the success of the rescission motion.

Cr Tiley told the council the OLG believed the section of the Local Government Act, 372, did not apply in this instance because conditions had changed and the section of the Act requiring councillor intervention did not apply.

But councillors were not informed of the second paragraph of the OLG advice that read: “I should flag however that the position is not entirely clear and this is very much a “vibe”-based view and does not have a solid legal basis.”

This latest information follows the revelation late last year that the BLER funding body had advised the council in March that Option B would have been permissible under its guidelines.

Yamba CAN secretary, Mrs Cairns said this latest revelation cast doubt over the decision and she doubted if councillors would have been as ready to switch their votes if that part of the advice had been read out.

She said it had taken eight months for the council to find this email after Yamba CAN lodged a GIPA request in March 2023.

“Council undertook two searches for the email and informed Yamba CAN in writing that it could not be located, or it was probably a phone call or if there was correspondence it would likely offend under the GIPA Act,” Mrs Cairns said.

“Council undertook another search following a recommendation on August 17 2023 from the Information and Privacy Commission and still couldn’t locate the email.

“Eight months after the GIPA request was lodged, the missing email was unexpectedly provided on November 15 after Yamba CAN lodged a GIPA request for a different document.

“Upon inquiry, council informed us the missing email was located in a senior staff member’s email inbox.”

Mrs Cairns said the design approved for the centre varied from those used to obtain the BLER grant.

She said councils request for tender for the new building contained a commercial kitchen of 93 sqm with a walk-in cool room and a dedicated multi-purpose under cover youth/early learning space with outdoor fenced area.

“The plans that was provided to the community in March 2023 have a 31.9 sqm community kitchen without a cool room and the youth space is now an area beside the driveway that is not under cover, has no fenced area and is shared with the mobility drop off point,” she said.

“It appears none of these changes were officially approved as required by the Department of Regional NSW.”
She said the “commercial kitchen” which was still in the council description of the project, was a sore point between the council and staff administering BLER grants at the Department of Regional NSW.

Treelands Drive Community Centre building

Work is progressing quickly on the demolition of the Treelands Drive Community Centre. The council has said the new centre will be finished on the site by June 2025.

She said the council has insisted on retaining its description of the kitchen as “commercial” even though the appliances have been downgraded.

She said an email trail discovered between council staff and the government revealed the Department had concerns about this and recommended the council change the description of it to “community kitchen”.

But the council has insisted it will fit out the space to commercial standard.

“A commercial kitchen is intended to fulfil an opportunity for revenue when the centre is hired and/or when events relating to the other expanded uses, are organised,” said one email to the Department from the council.

Mrs Cairns said it was clear the council never seriously considered Option B.

She said even when it became the council’s choice in late 2022, council staff were not progressing it.

“We found a number of emails from the BLER funding people asking council for information about the new option, but council did not reply,” Mrs Cairns said.

Council staff engaged an architect and provided a brief to develop a concept design for Option B, but put the architect on hold until it was determined at a council meeting which option council would pursue. The plan council provided for Option B was a rough diagram on a piece of paper.

This culminated in the March 16 email from the DRNSW office that read “we were aware Council were working on Option B and it would have been a permissible scope variation (i.e. to refurbish the existing centre, rather than knockdown/rebuild, in order to deliver the project within the available funds)”.

Mrs Cairns said the TDCC demolition and construction would go is going ahead, but the way the project progressed should be questioned.

She said the decision lacked transparency and accountability.

“Why were councillors required to make a decision without being provided important information?” she said.

The council response to a request for comment was brief.

“Throughout the project councillors have been kept well-informed through reports to council and a number of workshops,” a spokesperson said.

“Option B, discussed in late 2022 was not progressed as it was a 100% council funded project without a funding strategy and an approved budget to progress.”

 

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Local News

GOLD COAST AIRPORTS ONGOING SUPPORT FOR FEMALE RUGBY LEAUGE

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Gold Coast Airport and Tweed Seagulls

GOLD COAST AIRPORTS ONGOING SUPPORT FOR FEMALE RUGBY LEAUGE

 

The collaboration between the Tweed Seagulls Women’s team and Gold Coast Airport has been a cornerstone of the team’s identity since its inception in 2019. Gold Coast Airport has proudly held the front-of-jersey naming rights sponsorship for the team since they joined the QRL statewide competition, and this partnership has evolved into a mutually beneficial alliance.

In anticipation of the 2024 BMD Premiership season, Gold Coast Airport and the Tweed Seagulls Women’s Team have announced the extension of their valuable partnership. Gold Coast Airport (GCA) played a pivotal role as the founding sponsor, igniting the Tweed Seagulls’ mission to promote female rugby league in our region. Six years on, their commitment to this cause remains steadfast, contributing to the sport’s rapid growth in female participation.

Built upon shared values and a vision to empower local female athletes, the partnership provides a platform for them to excel both on and off the field.

Brendon Lindsay, CEO of Tweed Seagulls, eagerly welcomed the return of Gold Coast Airport as the team’s major sponsor for the 2024 BMD season, expressing gratitude for their unwavering support over the past six years. Lindsay looks forward to nurturing this enduring partnership in the years to come.

Gold Coast Airport and Tweed Seagulls

left to right: Jasmin Morrissey – BMD Cup player: Brian McGuckin – Chief Property & Planning Officer Queensland Airports: Brendon Lindsay – CEO Tweed Seagulls: Tarryn Aiken – BMD Cup player and Australian Jillaroo

Brian McGuckin, Chief Property and Planning Officer of Queensland Airports Limited, echoed this sentiment, expressing GCA’s delight in renewing this significant partnership with Tweed Seagulls. He emphasised GCA’s longstanding commitment to supporting women in sports, a cause they have championed for years.

The participation of Australian Jillaroo legend Tarryn Aiken and Australian PM XIII star Jasmin Morrissey, both part of the Tweed Seagulls lineup for the 2024 BMD Cup, created excitement at the season’s kickoff.

Beyond business ties, the partnership between Tweed Seagulls and GCA extends into the community, advocating for inclusion and diversity. Both organisations are dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for individuals from all backgrounds and promoting equal opportunities.

A portion of Gold Coast Airport’s sponsorship is allocated to the Tom Searle Scholarship, supporting young athletes in their academic or professional endeavours. By endorsing this scholarship, GCA reaffirms its commitment to nurturing local talent and enhancing the community’s well-being. The recipients of the Tom Searle Scholarship will be announced at the 2024 Ladies Leaders in League Breakfast, scheduled for Wednesday, May 15th.

 

For more sports news, click here.

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Harwood tighten grip on minor premiership

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Aiden Tredinnick doesn't mind launching the ball to and over the boundary and has a licence to thrill when he resumes batting on 14no on Saturday.

Harwood tighten grip on minor premiership

 

By Tim Howard

Harwood looks to be in a prime position to snare the minor premiership in its first year back in the Clarence River first grade cricket competition.

After rolling Tucabia Copmanhurst for just 109, Harwood replied to be 1/60 at the end of day one at Harwood Oval.

In contrast its closest rival, Lawrence, has a contest on its hands against reigning premiers GDSC Easts, which racked up 6/196 from just 50 overs.

Tucabia’s modest 109 could have been worse except for innings of 37no from veteran Matt Pigg and 24 from Travis Anderson.

Dean Carroll, who smote 260no before Christmas for Harwood’s Lower Clarence first grade team, showed his talent with the ball opening the bowling and snaring 3/30.

He made two early breakthroughs and returned later to pick up the dangerous Matt Dougherty for 11.

Brothers Ben and Jacob McMahon picked up a pair of wickets as did the other opening bowler Troy Turner.

At 1/60 and with a wealth of batting in the sheds Harwood need only to snare first innings points to take the minor premiership.

Opener Maison Simmons is unbeaten on 29 and Coby Tabor is with him on 15no when play resumes on Saturday.

Lawrence, the only team to keep pace with the front runners this season, seem certain to take second spot.

They are in a battle with Easts at Lower Fisher Turf, Grafton.

Aiden Tredinnick doesn't mind launching the ball to and over the boundary and has a licence to thrill when he resumes batting on 14no on Saturday.

Aiden Tredinnick doesn’t mind launching the ball to and over the boundary and has a licence to thrill when he resumes batting on 14no on Saturday.

After a lean couple of games with the bat Easts all rounder Shannon Connor found form on Saturday with 70 from 92 balls.

His innings with five fours and a six was relatively sedate compared to his usual fireworks and has put his team in a highly competitive position going into day two.

Sean Walters with 36, Tom Gerrard, 24 and Matt Lobsey, with 20, all helped get the total competitive before players were forced to leave the field due to lightning and rain delays.

Big hitting Aiden Tredinnick is at the crease on 14no with Ted Lobsey, also on 14no.

They will be looking to get their score well past 200 and give their bowlers a formidable target to defend.

At Ellem Oval Souths Westlawn and Coutts Crossing also had to contend with the storm that hit Grafton on Saturday, with Coutts racking up 6/143 on the back of a stylish 72 from Lewis Chevalley.

Souths Westlawn legspinning all-rounder Brenden Cotton was the best of the bowlers with four wickets for 29 runs.

Chevalley and opening bat Tim Tilse 26, combined for an 88-run first wicket partnership that ended when Cotten bowled Tilse.

Four more wickets tumbled for the addition of 30 runs.

Coutts will have 11 overs to build on their total, although South Westlawn’s indifferent form with the bat in recent games might suggest they are in a comfortable position.

 

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Supporting Seniors Amid the Transition to a Cashless Society

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Supporting Seniors Amid the Transition to a Cashless Society

Supporting Seniors Amid the Transition to a Cashless Society

 

As the prevalence of cashless transactions continues to rise, concerns about the impact on seniors and their ability to access essential services have come to the forefront. While banknotes remain legal tender, the increasing preference for card or mobile payments by businesses poses challenges for older Australians, who may rely heavily on cash for their day-to-day transactions.

The recent incident involving Queensland Federal Member, Bob Katter, highlights the frustration faced by many seniors when attempting to use cash for purchases, only to be met with resistance from establishments that accept only electronic payments. This trend towards cashless transactions has been exacerbated by factors such as the shift towards online shopping during the pandemic and the closure of bank branches and ATMs.

For seniors, the transition to a cashless society presents significant challenges. Many may not have access to mobile phones or may lack the necessary technological skills to navigate electronic payment systems. Concerns about additional fees associated with card payments, as well as the potential for power outages disrupting digital transactions, further compound these challenges.

Supporting Seniors Amid the Transition to a Cashless Society

As the prevalence of cashless transactions continues to rise, concerns about the impact on seniors and their ability to access essential services have come to the forefront

While businesses have the right to specify their preferred payment methods, it is essential that consumers are informed of these terms and conditions before making a purchase. However, it is equally important for businesses to consider the needs of all customers, including those who prefer or rely on cash for their transactions.

Looking ahead, the transition to a cashless society may continue to accelerate, with some experts predicting its completion by the end of the decade. However, this does not mean that cash will become obsolete entirely. Instead, it is essential to strike a balance between digital and cash payments, ensuring that all individuals have access to the payment methods that best suit their needs.

In supporting seniors during this transition, it is crucial for Australians to “pay it forward” by using cash where possible, thereby sending a message to government, banks, and businesses that cash remains a vital form of payment. Additionally, businesses should prioritize customer service and support initiatives aimed at increasing digital literacy among older Australians, such as the Be Connected Program.

By working together to address the challenges posed by the transition to a cashless society, we can ensure that all Australians, including seniors, have access to the payment methods and support services they need to navigate an increasingly digital world.

For more information and support, visit the Be Connected Program website.

 

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