TWO Waterline communities are calling foul after Bass Coast Shire Council took over the duties of their local committees.
In Coronet Bay, the community assets committee resigned en masse after the council intervened to resolve tensions over a sharp increase in charges for using the Coronet Bay community hall.
In Pioneer Bay, members of the community assets committee (formerly the reserve committee) have been told their committee will be wound up as it is no longer necessary.
“You could have knocked us over with a feather,” she said.
Ms Benbow said the committee has worked not just to improve facilities but also to promote social interaction in Pioneer Bay. “We’ve been labouring for the past 13 years – our volunteers have done the hard yards.
“When we do working bees, the community are asked to consider participating. Any skill level, any participation level is appreciated; from the ones sweating and covered in dirt, to the guys leaning on the shovel sharing a joke, to the lady that brings over a cake.”
For the past 10 years – including this year – the committee has run an Australia Day gathering which regularly attracts 400-600 people every year, many of them from Melbourne.
She says the reserve is the heart of the community but the long-term goal has always been a small community hall including toilets, a meeting space and storage space.
“Council does not have a clear understanding of the committee's past achievements and our ongoing commitment in finalising our vision for the park as a multipurpose community space.”
With the support of the former council, the reserve committee had intended to spend a portion of funds of about $25,000 in their account to have an architect draw up plans for the hall. However, at the most recent meeting with council officers they were told it was not the committee’s role to fund the design of a capital works project.
They were also knocked back when they sought to spend funds on improvements to the local skate ramp.
“This is just part of the continued frustration for Pioneer Bay,” Ms Benbow said. “Every time we try to do something we’re told we can’t.”
She says the committee is more relevant than ever as the community grapples with the range of social problems exacerbated by Covid.
“We believe the committee is Pioneer Bay's greatest asset in bringing our community's concerns and needs to the attention of Council. Pioneer Bay isn’t going anywhere. The council has to start working with the community.”
In Coronet Bay, tensions have been high since community groups were informed they would have to pay $15 an hour to use the Coronet Bay community hall, plus a $250 bond, plus have their own public liability insurance.
Previously they had paid a $22 fee – sometimes waived depending on the circumstances of the event or group.
Chris Petrie, president of the Coronet Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, said consultation was promised with about a dozen community groups that regularly used the hall before the fees were increased. This consultation process did not occur.
“There was no objection to individuals or businesses paying full fees but it meant many community events were no longer viable.
“I’m a member of the Beach Bums group that put on a variety of social events in the hall. Local business and people would donate door prizes. We’d get 50-80 people along and charge $2 or $3 entry fee. Every dollar we raised went to help a needy family or business. It was totally not for profit.
“The new charges added up to more than half of what we would take on the door. Why bother running the event?”
The council has since backed down on some of the demands, including the need for not-for-profit groups to have their own public liability insurance but several community events, including the Beach Bums karaoke nights and the Unplugged Coronet Bay open mic nights, may not continue.
Asa result of the fees hike, the group that ran the Coronet Bay community Christmas lunch pulled the plug on the event in July, ending a tradition that started in 2007.
Mr Petrie said that in the midst of the Covid lockdowns, when everyone was looking forward to resuming normal community life, the fees issue had just added to the stress. “It’s also against the council’s own policies on creating healthy lifestyles and improving mental wellbeing.”
The council informed him it would run the Coronet Bay community assets committee for the next 12-18 months. He is unsure what will happen after that, or what will happen to nearly $30,000 in the CAC account.
The Post sought a response from Bass Coast Shire Council but did not receive a response by publication time.