Council moving away from asset ownership

Uncertain future: Campaspe Shire’s Asset Management Plan has listed the Kyabram Plaza Theatre for “disposal’’ in the 2023 financial year. Photo: Tony Cole Photo by Tony Cole

A chorus of discontent from Kyabram’s community leaders has greeted the unveiling of Campaspe Shire Council’s Asset Management Plan, which could see several the town’s iconic buildings become privately or committee owned.

The Free Press has received several inquiries about the document, some concerned and others confused, the outcome our decision to implore readers to further investigate the impact the plan will have on the community.

For those Campaspe Shire residents who don’t have the time, or inclination, to wade through hundreds of pages of the report — and attachments — here is what the plan actually means to the Kyabram community.

But it is not only Kyabram people who should be concerned, this document affects the entire shire.

Before you prepare placards and angry emails to your local government representatives — several (led by Deputy Mayor Colleen Gates) were at pains to explain the document would not be the only paperwork considered in relation to the disposal of community assets.

Those people who have contacted the Free Press are so incensed by the plan (available on council’s website through the June 15 agenda and adopted by councillors at the same meeting) that we understand some have already written to councillors with their concerns.

One Free Press reader described the plan as “another swimming pool story, only on a grander scale”.

One particular attachment to the asset plan, referring to the transferral of ownership of land at Kyabram Racecourse and Recreation Reserve, has created disbelief among those with an understanding of the ramifications.

The adoption of the Asset Management Plan by council details a 10-year spend of $291 million on renewing, improving, disposing of and increasing its assets. Most of that amount, $218 million to be exact, has been allocated to the renewal of assets.

At the forefront of the community displeasure with the document is the proposal for two small parcels of land, home to the Kyabram BMX track and the Kyabram Scout Hall, to be transferred from council ownership to the Crown.

The project has been listed as a “short term priority’’ by the council and, according to our contacts, is an example of the council ”washing its hands’’ of responsibility for management of community facilities.

The suggestion from those on the coalface is that the exact opposite should be happening and council should be asking to take over the Crown land component of the reserve and developing it for community use.

Instead the result, if council’s proposal is supported, would mean passing responsibility to the committee of management — already under stress in regard to managing the road and other facilities on the reserve.

Fortunately, according to our learned readership the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) would never consider such a suggestion.

When contacted DELWP had no knowledge of such a proposal and confirmed it was most unlikely that such a proposal would even receive consideration.

The racecourse and recreation reserve forms a strategic part of Kyabram’s open space and because of its location — and linkages to the Kyabram Fauna Park, walking track and urban development — should be considered crucial to the town’s future.

It has redevelopment capability and expectations for it to be properly managed by a committee of management is out of step with reality.

The Free Press implores all Campaspe Shire citizens to take the time to read the document, which could have a significant impact on the entire shire.

When the Free Press contacted Kyabram Plaza Theatre — one of the shire-owned buildings listed for disposal — a management committee spokesperson said they were unaware of the document as the group was deep into negotiations for a new three-year lease agreement of the council in relation to future use of the Allan St building.

The spokesperson did say they were aware that council would ultimately like to not be responsible for the building’s management.

The committee is about to enter into a lease agreement with the shire, which flies in the face of the suggestion that the building could be disposed of by the shire in the puts in 2023 financial year.

Campaspe Shire groups may be forced to follow the example of Wyuna’s Memorial Hall management committee, which has purchased its building — earmarked by the council for disposal prior to the committee reaching an agreement with the local government authoirty to purchase the building.

It was a long-term discussion, which resulted in the hall being sold by council at a “peppercorn rate”.