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Community wins Bay kinder battle

CELEBRATION: Apollo Bay’s Sue Hill, Graham Hill, Bill Gross, Jane Gross and Fran Roberts couldn’t contain their excitement when they heard that the Colac Otway Shire Council would gift the town’s old kinder site back to the community, cheering and clapping as they left the meeting.

by Naomi Newcombe December 15, 2023

Apollo Bay leaders say their efforts to keep the old kinder site in the hands of the community are historic after winning the fight for 69 McLachlan Street.

Colac Otway Shire councillors voted five to two in favour of gifting 69 McLachlan Street, Apollo Bay, back to the community rather than proceeding with the intended sale.

The council previously granted the Bay community an extra month to submit ideas for what the former kindergarten could be used for if the property was not sold as intended by the council.

Council’s intention to sell the property was to recoup the $348,000 it contributed towards the new Apollo Bay Early Years Hub.

Councillors confirmed that by gifting the property to the community this would remove any responsibility of the council to provide financial contribution beyond the transfer of the property.

“This takes away any cash for achieving a childcare outcome, takes away any money to be available in the future for any maintenance, repair or redevelopment of this particular site,” Cr Chris Potter, who moved the motion, said.

Apollo Bay’s Sue Hill, Graham Hill, Bill Gross, Jane Gross and Fran Roberts erupted into cheers and applause at the meeting when they learnt that the former kindergarten would be returned to the community.

Cr Potter said gifting the property to the Bay community addressed the needs identified by the community now.

“This doesn’t recover the $348,000 that council did spend in the first place in relation to childcare,” he said.

“I believe in the returning of the property to the community. It allows the community the ability to address their needs, it gives them ownership and self determination as to the community and it removes the council any current or future liabilities in relation to the property.”

Cr Max Arnott said the council should harness the amount of community momentum and goodwill for the property.

“If a block came up in Apollo Bay and the community needed a strategically placed block in the middle of the town to consider its future use and the cost of that to council was $348,000, when the real cost of land around there might be seven or eight hundred grand, I’d jump at it,” Cr Arnott said.

“But let’s not pretend it’s a good building, it’s not. It’s just a block of land.”

Cr Tosh-Jake Finnigan said they saw a sensible outcome in handing over the property for community use, “provided that we do not put a dollar more into the site”.

Cr Stephen Hart said the Apollo Bay community had demonstrated an ability to manage projects in the past such as the Bay’s pool.

Cr Graham Costin said gifting the property back to the community would help achieve good outcomes for the community, not just for current generations but into the future as well.

“The Apollo Bay community has demonstrated many times that it is capable, motivated, resourceful and responsible community that should be able to realise the full potential of this property if we gift it,” he said.

Cr Kate Hanson, who voted against gifting the property to the community, alongside Mayor Marg White, said the decision had not gone through the budget process or gone out for public consultation.

“I think this also just goes against the goodwill that was there around council and council officers working with the community and advocating seven or eight years ago around getting what is the best outcome which is the new kindergarten and the maternal and child services down at Apollo Bay,” she said.

“Part of that deal was that we would make this contribution and that would come out of the sale of the kindergarten.

“It’s really not particularly transparent to the community because people are only going to find out about that this has happened after the fact.”

Apollo Bay Community Voice president Jane Gross told council during question time that if the council gifted the property to the community, a charitable trust would be set up within 90 days with a board of trustees to oversee the property.

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