EDITOR: The recent Cooma-Monaro Shire Council public meeting regarding rezoning of council's parks and open spaces was actually a debacle. The venue was too small, there was no sound system and it was intolerably hot. People left because they could not participate or felt ill.
Where is our Town Hall? Not one of the 165 plus attendees put their hand up to support council's proposed submission to "reclassify" parks, playgrounds and open spaces. The first member of the public to speak, a senior gentleman, requested truth in government.
Next, the council stated that the 20 page "strategy plan" document incorporated community concerns. The public thought this bulky document was overwhelming and contains devil in the detail. One public member suggested there should have been a summary issued such as "council want some parks rezoned 'operational' so they can be sold."
Council indicated park sales monies would be used for upgrading remaining parks. Council quoted that recently $50,000 was spent on the new BellaVista park. It was not mentioned that the BellaVista developer funded this playground and also provided open space lands.
Since 1993, under the EP&A regulations developers of subdivisions are to provide roads, gutters, drainage, sewage etc and under Section 94 are to provide cash and /or land in lieu of cash for capital works such as parks, access roads, or car parking associated with the development.
Unlike council's deteriorating infrastructure assets, irreplaceable park and open spaces land increase in value over time. State and federal counterparts have shown that selling of public lands and essential services is a draconian step of failed governments.
The Mayor indicated there was no budget money for more parks upgrading. This is because council invested Section 94 monies for interest bearing returns to make council's finances look good. There are sufficient funds for park improvements if councillors learnt that they must continuously direct and re-vote Section 94 funds. Currently council is depriving the community by not using Section 94 capital infrastructure funds for it's intended purpose.
The meeting chairman indicated that he was independent and was required to make a meeting report to council. The report is now available on council's website. It is worth noting that during the meeting, council were given unlimited time to respond to all criticisms, whereas community individuals had limited opportunity to be heard.
Although this public meeting was required by law, I sincerely hope that council pay attention to the total community resistance to the idea of losing publicly owned parks, playgrounds and open spaces.