Council evicts progress association from their hall

Council EvictionMacMasters Beach Progress Association evicted from their own hall by council.

The Macmasters Beach Progress Association have warned that the Macmasters Beach Progress Hall may have seen its last community function, as the new Central Coast Council has issued the Association an eviction notice to take effect on August 7.

Local man, Mr Led Waddington, celebrated his 95th birthday in the Hall on July 23, and part of the festivities included a public meeting to discuss the state of the Association’s affairs with Council, which was attended by over 90 people. The Macmasters Beach and District Progress Association president, Ms Barbara Wills, conducted the meeting to provide feedback to the Macmasters Beach community and alleged Council has failed to address any of the Association’s concerns in regards to conditions about its new licencing agreement.

Ms Wills provided the meeting with a timeline of Council’s actions and the Association’s responses. “All of this has come about because the Central Coast Council has tried to force a new licence agreement onto the organisations that manage community halls on Council’s behalf,” Ms Wills said. “In the case of the Macmasters Beach Hall, the proposed licence agreement is onerous, completely unsuited to this particular hall, and endeavours to transfer Council’s responsibilities to a community organisation,” she added. During the meeting, Ms Wills outlined the reasons the Association could not sign the agreement including issues with rent, site management, and liability.

“In the new agreement, Council increased the annual rent by 400 per cent,” Ms Wills said. “While the total dollars are not huge, the Association does not have the income to meet the costs, and offi ce holders cannot commit the Association to expenditure that is not covered by income. “Council has also included a rent escalation clause that provides for annual rent increases of CPI plus 3 per cent,” she said. Ms Wills also said that Council was “demanding” that the Association double its public liability insurance (twice the amount required by the Associations Incorporation Act).

She said the agreement required the Association to indemnify Council against any action arising from use of the Hall and its grounds. The Hall is located on a small section of the Corribeg Reserve and according to Ms Wills, the Association were not presently responsible for any part of the Hall or grounds, and said that the Association were just building tenants under an occupancy agreement. “Clearly this will increase the insurance burden on the Association as the reserve is a busy public thoroughfare,” she said. Ms Wills said the proposed agreement required the Association to pay GST on the rent which suggests Council is now defining the Hall as a commercial building. “It also appears that the agreement requires the association to pay 100 per cent of outgoings,” Ms Wills added. “The agreement essentially makes us responsible for a public reserve.

“How can Council do that?” Ms Wills said. According to Ms Wills, the Hall has been managed by the Progress Association for more than 60 years. “In that time, the hall has been used for community purposes and functions. “These functions have always been a focal point to enable the local community to get together to raise money for charity and needy community groups,” she said. Ms Wills said the matter is further complicated by the distinctive character of the Hall. “This Hall is tiny, the seating capacity would max out at about 12 people.

“The usual activities community halls get hired for do not suit the Macmasters Beach Hall and it’s very disappointing to see Council treat the Hall and the community in this way,” Ms Wills continued, saying she anticipated a “huge sense of loss” in the community if the Hall was successfully tendered by another organisation or group. “Council has stonewalled the concerns of the Association and it so upsetting to see the community being treated this way. Ms Wills said the Association would continue to dispute the conditions of Council’s agreement and that the group would meet with Member for Terrigal, Mr Adam Crouch, on August 1, to discuss the situation and would be seeking legal advice on aspects of the agreement they feel were “vague” and “confusing”.

A statement from Council said due high demand for community facilities, Council has adopted a new licencing policy to improve their use, availability and long-term sustainability. “The revamped policy makes sure the use of community buildings is fairer and transparent,” the council statement said. It said around four months ago, Council provided the Macmasters Beach and District Progress Association with the fi rst opportunity to take a new licence for use of the Hall. “Given the association has decided not to sign a new licence, it is now expected that a tender will be called for other community groups and organisations to use the Hall. “The association will be able to tender for use of the hall as part of this process,” Mr Slade said.

Email, Jul 25, 2016 Barbara Wills, MacMasters Beach Interview, Jul 25, 2016