CEN engages Council on asset sales

With submissions on Central Coast Council’s proposed Tranche 3 asset sales now having closed, The Community Environment Network (CEN) is intent on holding Administrator, Rik Hart, to his pledge not to reclassify community land as part of the asset sales program “unless absolutely necessary”.

More than 1,000 submissions were received on the proposed sales, many of them objecting to reclassification of community land.

Executive Member, Gary Chestnut, said representatives from CEN, the Central Coast branch of the Australian Conservation Foundation and Save Central Coast Reserves met with Hart on May 25 to discuss community concerns about the asset sale.

“Mr Hart explained that Central Coast Council had considered a $90M ‘basket’ of assets with sale potential from which it needed to sell $60M worth of assets,” Chestnut said.

“It was a relief to hear Mr Hart clarify that only operational land that had not received a great deal of public opposition would be considered for sale at this time.

“At the conclusion of our meeting, Mr Hart undertook to provide answers to six questions, and we look forward to receiving his response in the not-too-distant future.”

Chestnut said the first question to which the community needed an answer was how can the community keep abreast of how the asset sales process is going?

This includes detail on where Tranche 1 sales are up to and what is the status of Tranche 2, which has not been made public.

CEN also asked how the community will be able to assess value for money from asset sales if valuations and sale prices are not placed in the public domain and if any of the asset sales will be via auction.

The group also wants to know the makeup of the committee that has been responsible for identifying assets for sale and if the whole of Council’s operational lands portfolio has been audited.

“If so, is the total land portfolio available to the public?” the group asked.

“What has been the criteria to identify operational land appropriate for sale; how is ‘lazy’ and ‘surplus to needs’ defined?”

The sixth question to which CEN wants an answer is what communication strategy Council is implementing to address the community’s fears and confusion surrounding asset sales to build trust.

Chestnut said CEN had recommended that a number of operational assets included in Tranche 3 should not be sold by Council because of their environmental value or contribution to the amenity and liveability of the region.

These included parcels at Doyalson, Tuggerah, Bensville, Blackwall, Bateau Bay, The Entrance, North Gosford, Killarney Vale and Gosford.

“CEN considers protection of the natural environment paramount,” he said.

“However, the liveability of Gosford and its position as a social and cultural hub for the Central Coast region is also a critical part of our commitment to sustainable development in the built environment.

“Consequently, and in an attempt to be balanced and respect Council’s need to reach $60M of asset sales, CEN would be prepared to accept the conditional sale of the Thompson Vale Rd land at Doyalson in exchange for the withdrawal of lots from 49-71 Mann St, Gosford.

“The Mann St properties were earmarked for the long-promised Regional Performing Arts Centre in Gosford.”

Chestnut said the CEN had asked Council to consider selling various other assets, including Warnervale Airport, Council work depots, the Wyong council building, instead of some of the properties currently listed for consideration.

“If Council’s public face in its regional capital (Gosford) can be via a library, why does Council need to retain either the Gosford or Wyong purpose-built premises?” he said.

“Mr Hart mentioned that the $90M asset basket represented less than 1 per cent of Council’s total land portfolio so perhaps employees could be relocated across other sites so that both the former Council buildings could be sold.

“Council meetings could be held in alternate venues such as the Erina Centre and the Art House.

“The sale of the Wyong building would provide an excellent site for infill development of affordable housing close to services and public transport.”

CEN has also ranked Council’s operational land sales list from most suitable for sale to least suitable for sale, with the list available on its website.

For Council to reclassify parcels of land from community to operational it would need to lodge a Planning Proposal, which would take 12-18 months to complete.

Terry Collins

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