Council set to decide
ABOUT 20 per cent of Porter Park will be ‘excised’ to build the controversial Aboriginal child and family centre at West Ballina, if plans are approved by Ballina Shire Council this week.
A report by the council’s Strategic and Community Services group recommends the centre be built on a 3800sqm area in the north-eastern corner of the reserve.
The land would have to be re-categorised from ‘sports ground’ to ‘general community use’.
The council’s strategic services group manager, Stephen Barnier, said the site included car parking and landscaping.
“The strong message coming out from nearby residents has been the concern of the loss of the sports field,” he said.
“So we’ve worked very hard to ensure a cricket ground can be maintained.
“If this proposal is approved by councillors, there will still be a viable cricket ground, albeit with different dimensions.”
But Ken Johnston from the Save Porter Park Action Group said they were disappointed with the entire process.
“We’ve known that these plans were coming,” he said.
“But I feel sorry for the people who have been living on that side of the park – they’ve had a nice view, but soon they will just be looking at this building.
“The council is ignoring our protests.
“All along they have thought that Porter Park was the most expendable land that they’ve got.
“But this park is used by everyone. How can you just take it away? It just doesn’t seem right.
“They are charging ahead, so I don’t know what chance we’ve got.
“But we are still ploughing ahead. We won’t give up.”
The Department of Community Services’ manager of regional strategies for communities and early years division, Kym Langill, said the new centre was going to be a ‘magnificent facility’.
“We’re certainly not expecting to take up the entire site,” she said.
“There will still be a lot of green space.
“We had the architect change the design so the cricket oval could be maintained.
“But this area has the highest indigenous population of children and mothers in Ballina.
“It’s an appropriate location.
“The Local Reference Group, made up of Aboriginal community members, has endorsed it.
“It will enhance the neighbourhood and create jobs.
“Obviously it is disappointing some people don’t want the centre there.
“We want to provide factual information about the benefits that this centre will have.
“We’ve been working really closely with our community and we want to deliver what we think is a massive asset.
“We don’t want people to lose sight of the fact that this is about early intervention, closing the gap and making sure that children from low socio-economic backgrounds are school-ready.”
Councillors will vote on the proposal to build the centre at Porter Park at Thursday’s meeting.
If it is approved, the re-categorisation of the land will be open for public comment, and there will be a public hearing before the council makes its final decision.