Community centre looks to future

Inside the Byron Bay Community Centre are general manager Paul Spooner and president of the management committee Jani Collins. Picture: Kate O’Neill.
Inside the Byron Bay Community Centre are general manager Paul Spooner and president of the management committee Jani Collins. Picture: Kate O’Neill.
Paul Spooner has a clear message for the community.

And that is that the Byron Bay Community Centre is viable, vibrant and looking to the future.

The centre’s general manager said that despite recent comments, the centre was not closing and was not in dire financial straits.

“Yes, we do sail close to the wind in regards to our financial position, but we are on track to deliver all the services that help support this community,” Mr Spooner said.

“At present we are being audited and the report will be available later this month in readiness for our annual general meeting in November.

“We have a new committee that has been on board since last November and they are doing a wonderful job.”

Recently the centre had asked Byron Shire Council to help pay an $80,000 bill to the Australian Tax Office.

 The council voted to receive a report on its capacity to provide an $80,000 five-year loan to the association and also a report on possible partnership models between the council and the association.

Mr Spooner and the president of the centre’s management committee, Jani Collins, said they were both looking forward to the council playing a greater role.

“The council waives our rates, but that’s it,” Mr Spooner said.

“It’s quite a unique position because most councils in the State help to finance and run their community centres.

“For example, the Noosa Community Centre receives $250,000 annually from its local council.”

Ms Collins said the centre could manage to financially operate the numerous services it provided the community, but it was the long-term maintenance of the building that would require help.

“The new centre was built in 2002 and now is in need of some maintenance, including painting,” she said.

“We would also like to redevelop the courtyard area, and the theatre needs some work.”

The centre is run largely by volunteers, with just four employees being paid, including the venue manager, general manager, part-time accounts manager and part-time marketing manager. The management committee is also voluntary.

The centre is financed through tenant leases, donations, theatre hire, management of the Byron Bay Markets and some government funding.

Ms Collins said the centre was moving forward in a positive way and engaging with the community.

“We have a clear direction about what we are doing and we are following through with a lot of momentum,” she said.

“The centre provides a host of welfare services to meet the complex needs of the Byron Bay area.

“We need to form a partnership between the community, the council and the centre to support the residents in the town.”

Mr Spooner said the centre had been the catalyst for a host of community initiatives, including the Liberation Larder and a new house for the homeless.

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