THE POTTSVILLE and District Men’s Shed has been approved to construct its members’ shed at the Black Rocks Sports Field site this afternoon, ending years of debate around the issue.
The decision, which will allow for an already prefabricated shed structure to be erected, was made during Tweed Shire Council’s monthly Ordinary Meeting this afternoon (Thursday, March 16).
Councillor Reece Byrnes led the motion and was supported by Cr Warren Polglase, Cr James Owen and Cr Pryce Allsop.
The result brought shouts of joy from the packed public gallery, who were asked throughout the meeting to remain quiet during the formal council proceedings. There were also some shouts against the decision from the public gallery from those disappointed with the decision.
Several Councillors including Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry and Mayor Katie Milne spoke against the motion and was supported with a vote of support from Cr Ron Cooper.
Cr Byrnes led discussion on the matter and said he had experienced a lot of pressure over the issue from the public, but he understood the role of Councillors and what they had “signed up for”.
He said he felt the best way forward for Pottsville, as a community, was to allow the site to have a shed at Black Rocks.
“Although I will call for a koala monitoring in the Black Rocks Sports Field area,” he said.
“This debate is not just about animals, but the community and moving forward with less division.
“There is no alternative site at this stage.”
The decision ends three years of debate, letters to the editor, online discussions and public gatherings in support of the Men’s Shed; as well as those opposing the site at Black Rocks in what they believe noise from the shed will disturb koalas.
However, many residents expressed further concerns over fears continued tension and further anxiety over the Black Rocks site will continue to divide the community.
Pottsville & District Men’s Shed Presidents John Wells, who spoke during community access, said he was overjoyed with the decision.
“This is a great day for the Men’s Shedders,” he said.
“We have finally found a way forward with this vote and can now get back to supporting our members at our new site.”
The site is secured for the next five years, although Mayor Milne attempted to have the site vote deferred with an amendment, which was supported by Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry.
The amendment proposed Lot 3 Centennial Drive location as well as or several private locations that could be purchased. Mayor Milne said there was current six sites available.
She implored Cr Byrnes to reconsider his position and called for cooperation.
Cr Cherry said she supported the amendment because it allowed an April deferral to allow for the State Government report.
However, the amendment was voted down and the original motion was carried.
Mayor Milne moved a second amendment motion to ensure the Men’s Shed actively looks for a permanent site.
“I move a motion that the five license be granted on condition that the Pottsville & District Men’s Shed at Black Rocks that they actively locate and seek a permanent site.”
However, the second amendment was also voted down and the original motion was carried.
Cr Allsop said he trusted the Men’s Shed to investigate future options.
EARLIER COMMENTS AND COMMUNITY ACCESS
Earlier during community access there was a firey exchange between both Pottsville Men’s Shed members and those opposing the site.
President John Wells presented a petition containing 2500 signatures which he said came from local residents in the region.
Cr Cherry asked about membership numbers at the shed? Mr Wells replied that have 41 members.
Cr Cherry asked whether any application had been made around alternative sites? Mr Wells replied that he has had meetings with Mr Provest and the State Government.
“We went to Council, and met with Mayor at the time (Former Mayor) Barry Longland, could we look at Black Rocks Sports Field,” he said.
Mr Wells admitted that there has been no formal application made to Crown Lands. Cr Cherry and Mayor Milne asked whether the Men’s Shed had looked for any other sites.
Mr Wells said he had conversation about other sites including “eleven other sites were considered”, but he added there had been no formal applications made.
Mayor Milne pressed Mr Wells on whether the Men’s Shed had investigated alternative sites and why this did not occur.
Mayor Milne asked if Mr Wells had investigated any private sites but he said “the club did not investigate any private sites as the club does not have any budget to consider private land”.
The community meeting was debated by the gallery after those opposing the Black Rocks Sports Field said they were given on one person to debate when those for the Men’s Shed had two speakers. Mayor Milne allowed a further three minutes for those opposing the Men’s Shed site.
Pottsville resident and Threatened Species Conservation Society president Dave Norris came out firing during his community access speech.
“Mr Wells said the Men’s Shed had applied for a site through Crown Lands, but that did not happen even after Lot 1 was found to be suitable, but just required an application,”he said.
“I have been advised that we have other sites, two new potential sites. Mr Provest MP said there was plenty of Crown Lands site in the Pottsville area and all the Men’s Shed needed to do was make an application.
“Mr Provest said he would also provide a park site at the holiday park as a temporary site.
“I therefore call for the motion to be deferred until the Men’s Shed makes an application to Crown Land to find a permanent site.”
Mayor Milne asked Mr Norris whether he had engaged with the Pottsville & District Men’s Shed to try and organise alternative sites.
Mr Norris added that should the Black Rocks Sports Field be approved for a Men’s Shed his campaigning against the site “would continue”.