Feeling ran high at yesterdays public hearing at Lismore Council Chambers about the proposed reclassification of community land in Lismore to operational. Operational means that the land can be leased or sold as Council sees fit.
The meeting was chaired by Rob Van Iersel from Geolink a development consultancy based in Lennox Head.
This brought local landowner Paul Recher to his feet to ask if there wasnt some conflict of interest in having such a chairperson.
Theres no money for your consultancy if the land remains community land, he said. There is no advantage to the rate-payer in the reclassification. Its a manoeuvre to take away the checks and balances on council.
Community lands affected are Lismore Park, Riverview Park (South Lismore), Greenhills Park (in Goonellabah) and the Lismore Workers Sports Club land. These parcels of land are all community owned at present.
Peter Bellew who lives near Lismore Park ( which includes Crozier Oval) was frustrated by the councils refusal to reveal plans for the future of this park which has been community-owned for over 100 years. He reminded the meeting that 880 signatures were collected in only two days in support of Lismore Park remaining community land.
Barry Davidson, a community worker and long time community sports advocate, reckoned that even councillors might lose control of the decision-making concerning operational land.
He also noted that reclassifying the land opened it up to sale if the council so decided, and that the current council was under heavy financial stress.
Phil Toynton, member of the Northern Rivers Greens, pointed out all the community groups that use Lismore Park. The community can be barred from using this land once its classified operational, he said.
Look, he said pointing out areas on the old aerial photograph of Lismore Park projected on the council chambers wall. Theres the scout hall, and the girl guides. Theres the netball courts and tennis courts. And the public cricket nets. And soccer fields...
Ken Wray from Lismore Tennis Club said his club was keen to see the land stay classified community and he was sure he spoke for most of the sporting bodies that used the land.
After the submissions were heard and questions asked, the chairman summed up the general feeling of the meeting, and of written submissions received by council.
These lands are community lands for the people, he said. The concern is that once they no longer belong to the community, the council can do whatever it wants with that land.
He will present a report however Council is under no obligation to consider it when making its decision.
After the meeting, several people expressed frustration at the seemingly widely-held belief that the decision to reclassify was already a done deal, regardless of public sentiment.
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