Bayswater councillor labels decision against community group ‘error of epic proportions’

Bayswater City Community Safety Watch and Garden Eduation chairwoman Pat Lim at the garden.
Bayswater City Community Safety Watch and Garden Eduation chairwoman Pat Lim at the garden.

A BAYSWATER councillor has labelled council’s decision not to renew a usage agreement for a Morley community group an “error of epic proportions”.

Last night, a divided Bayswater council did not approve Bayswater City Community Safety Watch and Garden Education Inc’s current usage agreement and moved to extend the agreement to the end of July – longer than the officer-recommended June 30.

Its future will then be decided by council at a workshop.

The decision has left the group “devastated” and uncertain to go ahead with its planned July 1 community garden official opening.

The group has held a usage agreement at Brand Place since June 2015, previously operating at the site as Bayswater Neighbourhood Watch.

Group chairwoman Pat Lim said the officer’s report presented to council did not reflect the status of the group.

“(We) previously asked the officer to fix the so-called deficit,” she said.

“No-one has ever been denied usage of the building by a member of the group.”

She said Morley Lions Club had committed support to take on the community garden and use the premises for its clubrooms and they had put off signing a Memorandum of Understanding with youth program pending council’s decision.

Ms Lim said it had also put off the official opening on July 1, as there was not enough time for proper advertising, signage, set up of a Facebook page and final set up of fairy garden.

Cr Catherine Ehrhardt said while she was “extremely supportive” of community gardens, there was no guarantee of the promised 50 members joining after the official opening.

She said the extension of the usage agreement by a month would give the applicant an opportunity for that to occur.

Cr Ehrhardt also queried why the community was not involved from the start.

Cr Stephanie Coates said with discrepancies in the report and new information from the Lions Club, it made sense to “thrash this out” at a workshop to move forward.

Mayor Barry McKenna said councillors needed to sit down with City officers and “not dismiss what officers said”.

However, Cr Chris Cornish, who supported a five-year usage agreement for the group, said the one-month extension created uncertainty and stress for the group.

“You either want to shut it down or you don’t,” he said.

Cr Cornish said while the site needed signage and more open premises, council could face backlash over its decision similar to that faced over the Cool Breeze cafe saga.

“This council will be making an error of epic proportions,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s going on here.”

Cr Dan Bull said council had two workshops in the last three weeks were they could have raised issues with the group’s usage agreement, but did not.

Cr Bull said the support of the Lions Club “de-risks” supporting a usage agreement moving forward.

During public question time, resident Greg Smith asked whether the City could make public the list of community groups waiting to use a facility like Brand Place.

He also queried whether the City would rezone the land to a higher density if it sold the site.

Crs Cornish, Bull and Sally Palmer voted against the decision.