Eastern Suburbs Sydney
Private Bondi Waterfront for only $500 per year!!!!!
Most People who have ever walked along the rocks of North Bondi would have probably noticed this Club as they ambled happily over the Rocks on one of those beautiful sunny summer days. Not far passed the north bondi rock pool tucked behind the famous Flat Rock at North Bondi is the Ben Buckler Fishing Club more commonly know as "the boatshed" because it is little more.
A small formed boatramp leads up from the rocks to the intriguing "boatshed" a modest building surrounded by the smal tinnies of the members.
As a child I was always intrigued by this shed, partly due to my love of fishing and partly due the mystique in that it seemed the exception rather than the rule that anyone ever went out on these boats and even though i was a member of North Bondi SLSC for many years and spent many days swimming, fishing and playing down the North end of Bondi. I never did seem to meet anyone who was actually a member of the Club and I only very rarely actually saw a boat go out.
One day, many years later after I had grown up, I decided to ask some of the members sitting in the Club about how one would go about joining the Club.
I was giving a very blunt reply "Private Club mate." I decided to try to find some contact details for the club to try and speak to someone in more Authority but the only phone number that i could find for them had been disconnected years ago.
As i thought "the Boatshed" was on Private premises, i assumed that it was their decision to have a private club and that they were very lucky to own a Property on the absolute Bondi Waterfront. Very Lucky Indeed.
By all accounts, I thought that was the end of this story and it was for quite a while, until i cam accross a piece of valuable information.
The information i came accross seemed to imply that the club was actually owned by waverley council.
I found this intiguing because it got me thinking. On what grounds does this club run and exclusive private club on essentially public community land.
I inquired with Waverley Council if this was indeed their property and if so, on what grounds did this club have exclusive private access to this Club???
This is where the story gets really interesting!!!!
I was informed that the property was in fact a Crown Reserve and the Council was a Trustee!! The council leased the property to the Club for their private use and had no say in Membership.
I thought that if they leased this public reserve to the fishing club I would like to know what terms they had in their lease.
The reason for this was simple. If they were given community land for their own private use which served no benefit or use to the wider community I wanted to make sure that council was getting a decent return for that Property. especially considering it's prime waterfront location.
At first council would not provide me with a copy of the Lease, they said I had to apply in writing and pay a fee of around $50.
As this was clearly not the case, i informed the contact at council that i did not have to either pay for nor put in a written application for this information. I informed her that under the GIPA act 2009, she was obliged to provide me with this information promptly without anything further required on my part. I informed her that if i was not provided with this information i would report her to the informatioon commissioner.
I was soon informed i was correct and did not have to pay any fee for this information like was initially incorrectly stated by the Senior Council Manager.
I was promptly provided with a copy of the Lease for the premises of the fishing club and oh boy did i get a suprise.
I was told that their current Lease started in 1977 and expired in 1997. For some unexplained reason their current lease had been on hold over for 13 years after it initially ceased. BUT....
But...that wasn't even the most interesting thing. When i saw the rent the club paid to council i was pretty shocked! in 1977 there Rent was $100 per year!!! rising 5% a year!!!!!
As the lease had effectively ended in 1997 (as this is the year State government approval ended and effectively needed the year the lease should have been reviewed)rental calculations effectively ended that year. I was informed though by council that the club had been on hold-over for the past 13 years and the 5% per annum increase to rent had continued. By my calculations there current rent in 2010 was $500 per year for this exeptional piece of prime Bondi Waterfront! as their lease or rent had effectively not been reviewed for over 30 years!
Once I had gone through the Lease agreement (which I can noiw see why council did not want to provide this easily) I decided to ask if what I had thought was correct. I aksed if my calculations were correct that the club paid a paltry $500 per year to council for this property and why they had such cheap rent???
They informed me that the rent was so cheap because it was a community facility!?!?!?! The council representative then had the audacity to compare it to the Pavilion!!!!!
I informed the council that the fishing club was not a community facility anything like that of the pavilion.
For one, community groups and residents all have access to the Pavilion. The fishing club is a private club and they can reject any member without giving a reason....Also the club disconnected it's only telephone number. This has essentially made the club uncontactable as this is their only phone number in publications such as white pages, club list etc.
How is this club part of the community if they are in no way contactable and do not accept new members or only members of there choosing.
I find it quite rude that the council try to justify the extremely low rent on the same grounds as the pavilion when the use of the fishing club is quite exclusive private in nature.
I also asked why they have been on a Hold-Over Lease for 13 years.
Still, to this day, Waverley Council has refused to answer whatsoever why this lease has not been reviewed in the 13 years since it ended.
What makes me even more angry is that the department of Lands states that a holdover lease should go no longer than 12 months after it end date. Clearly 13 years is quite a breach of this yet it does not seem to be of great concern to anyone at the council. As council will admit it is important they make as much money wherever they can?? why on earth hasn't someone reveiwed this in some way since it expired 13 years ago??? either review the appropriatenss of the current lease for renewal or put the property to tender this is what the Department of Land state to do so I really think due to the already considerable delay this should be a priiority.
That council did neither of these options and totally has disregarded The Department of Lands 12 Month period is quite astonishing.
Also because this is a crown reserve, any lease needs state government approval which should have been sent for reapproval when the current state government lease agreement expired in 1997.
This lease has continued for 13 years after it's original 20 years expired. 12 years longer than the Department of Lands reccomends and all the time i try to inform either the Mayor, Councillors, or the relevent council management, i am lucky to get more than a three or four word response.
After informing the Council several times over several months that having a hold-over lease on Crown Land for more than a decade after The Department of Lands recommended Period of 12 months is far from an ideal situation.
I came to the opinion after a few months that if the Council has failed to act for this long, they are not going to act anytime soon on this matter and they are going to ignore me which i think is frankly disgusting.
My last questions to the council on the matter is this...
* If council is going to rent this community property to a club for well under market value, shouldn't council in some way make sure this club is in some way contactable by the community and that there is transparent information available to any resident on how the club operates how they may join etc. I think this should be the absolute bare minimum to justify this as a community facility.
* this club is currently the only waverley community facility that does not have contact details or is open to the community at large.
* if club wants to continue in it's present form as an exlusive private club. They should pay commercial rates for the property.
* Can council please confirm that it does take note of the Department of Lands information relating to Leasing of Crown Land. Can Council give a genuine answer why holdover lease has continued for 12 years longer than the Department of Lands Recomends.
* Can council please give a genuine reason why this lease sent back to state government when current state government signed approval expired in 1997???
* Can council explain if this was a genuine oversight and if so how did this oversight occur with our amount of staff compared to other councils???