At an extraordinary Byron Council meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted to go ahead with a revised $16 million Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex project and to fund a budget blowout of $1,678,700 by applying to the Minister for Local Government for a one per cent rate increase to raise $1,158,7000 and by using $520,000 from Section 94 open space funds for Byron Bay/Suffolk Park.
The council already has an approved $9 million for the project from Federal Government grants, but was in danger of losing the grant because a recent report to the council had put the cost of the project at $23 million, well above the projected $14 million.
Council’s general manager, Graeme Faulkner, had earlier recommended that the project be scrapped and the $9 million be handed back to the Federal Government.
But the council gave the project a stay of execution and told quantity surveyors Altus Page Kirkland (APK) to provide a revised estimate for the project.
Details of the revised estimate of $16.848 million were presented to Tuesday’s meeting.
Speaking at the meeting for the Byron Bay Sports Association, Australian Olympic legend Herb Elliott said the group was not expecting a ‘Rolls Royce complex, just a Holden’.
He said the association would do anything to meet the council’s budget.
“There is absolutely no pressure here to overspend,” he said.
“We all shared in the good fortune of getting $9 million for the project, then disbelief when council’s general manager recommended that it be given back, then relief again when council agreed to send the project back to the drawing board and come up with a new price.
“This sports complex will be an asset to the community, and it will help change the party image of Byron Bay into the image of a sporting town.
“The community wants it, the community needs it, let’s move ahead.”
Mayor Cr Jan Barham said the sports centre would be used by the entire shire, not just children from Byron Bay.
“This means there is a future for our children. It’s a fantastic project and it can be used for cultural pursuits as well,” she said.
“It would be negligent of us not to approve this revised amount for the project.
“We must move forward. We will find the money and we will come in under budget.”
Cr Ross Tucker said the Recreation Ground at Byron Bay was the only area where sport could be played in the town.
He said the ground was overused, with at least 500 kids playing soccer, as well as netballers and cricketers.
“Let’s move forward with the money that we have now. It might not be what we want, but it’s what we can afford,” Cr Tucker said.
Cr Diane Woods said she was concerned that there would be no money left for sporting facilities in the north of the shire.
“I do see merit in this project, but I feel uncomfortable about it,” she said.
Cr Basil Cameron said he was concerned about the scale of the project and that it was still over budget.
“There are lot of questions that still need to be answered,” he said.
“This project will see a major diversion away from sports fields for the rest of the shire. It needs to be scaled down.
“I don’t oppose the project, but it needs to be more sustainable.”
Speaking after the meeting, Cr Barham said she was really happy with the outcome.
“We have managed to keep the project alive,” she said.
A separate motion passed at Tuesday’s meeting noted that council staff did not support the sports centre project.
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