Caravan park saved
THE Lismore TouristCaravan Park has been given a reprieve with councillors voting to reject a staff recommendation to permanently close the park.
Instead, work will be undertaken to negate the worst effects of future floods while a social impact study is conducted on the effects of a possible closure.
But the news was not so good for parents of children at the council-owned Koala Child Care Centre at Goonellabah, who filled the public gallery at this week’s council meeting to hear that the centre, to their dismay, will be sold.
The future of the caravan park, which has about 80 long-term residents, has been under a cloud since residents were trapped in surging floodwaters for a second time during last year’s flood.
Park resident Daniel Bull, who has lived there for six years, was visiting a friend’s farm when his neighbours were forced to wade to safety through chest-high waters during the flooding.
However, he has had to live with the aftermath – not only was his home destroyed, but he and other park residents have endured 12 months of uncertainty over the van park’s future.
“It’s been a political bunfight,” Mr Bull said. “There’s been talk about it (the park’s future) for a while, but no one knew what was going on.
“It’s good that the council isn’t closing it next year because I would have had to find somewhere else to live.”
The van park has become a defacto low-cost housing option for about 80 permanent residents, even though legally they are only supposed to stay there for a maximum of 28 days.
However, even though councillors supported the motion by Cr Vanessa Ekins to keep the council-owned park open for the immediate future, it was revealed on Tuesday night that the private lessee who runs the park does not intend to renew his lease when it expires in 18 months.
Despite numerous attempts, The Northern Star could not contact lease owner Ashley Cooper to verify this.
Yesterday, Cr Ekins said while her motion would not necessarily keep the park open in the long-term, it would give the council time to work with government departments to resettle the permanent residents.
“I was horrified to see the proposal to permanently close the park (in December 2011),” Cr Ekins said.
“I’m hoping the social impact study will identify some way forward, so we at least will have some more information.”
A report to councillors on Tuesday night identified three options – do nothing, relocate the park or close it – recommending the latter.
But it was the decision on the Koala Child Care Centre that the large crowd in the public gallery had come to see.
After a passionate plea from parent Janette Anderson, it was Cr Graham Meineke who rose to his feet to ‘make the hard decision and move the motion’ to sell the centre.
“No doubt my popularity with some sections of the public will plummet as fast as the Prime Minister’s, but one of the points that came out very strongly during the rate variations meetings is that we have to get our own financial house in order,” he told the meeting.
“We need to get a forensic auditor in here, not just an ordinary auditor, to find out where our money is going and how it is being spent or wasted.
“As councillors we also must make the hard decisions. We can’t go to water when we have parents in the chamber.”
The motion was eventually passed with Crs Gianpiero Battista, Van-essa Ekins, David Yarnall and Peter Graham voting to keep it open.
Meanwhile, in other developments, councillors opposed a bid to halve the urban and rural sportsfield upgrade budget for 2011, with Cr Neil Marks arguing the reduction should not be locked in before the community had a chance to express its opinion.