I remain concerned at the ability of South Gippsland Shire Council to run commercial ventures and the impact on the council budget for 15/16.
Coal Creek is a good illustration of what happens to a budget when council simply does not make a decision.
Over the past four years Coal Creek has LOST $2.24 million.
For 14/15 the loss is budgeted at $701,000 including capital expenditure.
In the 15/16 Draft Budget the loss is budgeted at $454,000 including capital expenditure.
So by June 2016 the cost burden to the ratepayers of Coal Creek is $3.4 million.
There have been two major consultancies, Pitcher Partners Report in 2011 and Mawland Associates Report in 2012. Costs of these unknown and not included above.
Recommendations involved borrowing millions of dollars!
Council keeps putting forward the number of visitors at 65,000 per annum. However council has confirmed that this figure includes all those who go to the monthly Farmers Market, Men’s Shed participants going in and out, ditto for playgroups, gardening groups etc. and those who are using the conference and board rooms for meetings.
The true figure for visitors who actually come to just visit Coal Creek is about 12,000 per annum.
If we apply council’s logic on swimming pools – that it costs ratepayers $12 – $14 every time a swimmer uses Foster pool, then in 14/15 it cost ratepayers $58 every time a visitor came to Coal Creek.
The last time council actually discussed Coal Creek as a specific agenda item was May 2014.
There was a proposal put forward by some councillors in budget discussions in March 2015 that the solution was to borrow $3.5 million, put up a school camp at Coal Creek and lo and behold make $1.2 million income!
I would suggest that council does not have the expertise to run successfully what is a very specialised area let alone make a profit with such heavy borrowings.
My research has discovered that Warrnambool City Council which runs Flagstaff Hill at Warrnambool has grave concerns over declining patronage and the cost burden in providing about $500,000 annually to keep the 40-year-old man-made attraction operating as a tourism drawcard.
Plans for a $3 million upgrade turned into a stormy verbal stoush! (see Warrnambool Standard 7/10/14).
That does sound familiar!
We ratepayers simply cannot afford Coal Creek!
I call on council to make a decision to stem the bleeding – either close it, or pass management responsibility to an incorporated volunteer community body and let them run the site.
Then in similar fashion to council’s decision on the swimming pools, if the operation of the park is not successful then it has to close. Council will not take it back.
(All figures from Council Agendas, Appendices and Minutes of Meetings)
Megan Knight, Foster
Make a decision already!