HERE'S what I had to say at tonight's council meeting in reference to Cr Elliott's motion to hand back parts of the Willow Court historic site. In the end I was ultimately unsuccessful, being one of only three councillors opposed to the band-back. It was a vigorous debate while still showing due respect to the varying opinions around the table.
Six councillors ultimately supported an amended motion put forward by Cr Bromfield which will see the council enter discussions to negotiate the transfer of the whole of the Willow Court site on terms and conditions that are in the best interest of our community. Councillors Farrell, Lathey and I opposed the motion.
Mr Mayor, councillors already know my position on this. In fact Cr Elliott in his supporting documentation proves what great strides we have made in just the last few months and why we should continue on our current path instead of admitting defeat.
* We have resumed direct authority for the site and its redevelopment
* We have a plan to have the site open to visitors by the end of May
* We have formed the Friends of Willow Court
* We have appointed a consultant for the consolidation of existing plans and the creation of a development strategy.
So my respectful question is: Why stop now?
We can do this ourselves and it will be for the long-term benefit of our community.
My second question is whether those in favour of returning the site to the State Government believe the government will be able to move any faster on this development. The state’s record in the final decades of its ownership does not inspire confidence.
What will happen to the site in the months or perhaps years that may pass before the State Government takes any action?
Cr Elliott suggests in his motion that we transfer the site to a State Government Entity. Which entity would that be? Who will decide? and when will they decide? And what will happen to the site in the meantime?
With due respect to Cr Elliott, his motion is deficient as it does not make clear what he proposes to hand back to the State Government. Does it include the oval and surrounding buildings? If not, why not? Does it include the river flats? Does it include the building the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have promised as an arts centre?
If the does council decide to throw in the towel, it must preserve the integrity of what remains of the site and hand it all back to the State Government, rather than pick and chose what it wants to keep for possible financial gain.
Sadly, the council has already damaged the historical integrity of the site through ill-advised asset sales and, if it is decided to give it all away, the council must return all parts of Willow Court that it still owns.
Perhaps the most important and neglected area is, as always, community consultation. The public was never asked whether it wanted the council to take ownership of Willow Court and Cr Elliott's motion makes no mention of a plan to ask whether the public wants us to give it back.