Your Say

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Christine Stanton was deeply concerned about the Council’s handling of the Masters debacle. She requested to speak to Council on November 22 2017.

Following her address, her husband also requested to speak at the next, and last, Council meeting on December 20, 2017.

See Terry Stanton’s speech below.

Mayor and Councillors, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

At the meeting on 22nd November, my wife, Christine Stanton, addressed you about Council expenditure on the purchase of the Masters building.  She quoted three passages from Council documents.  Two were from the Minutes of the meeting on 2nd November which was the one at which the decision to buy was taken.  The first said: “Reason for Confidentiality: The disclosure of information such as valuation ranges and negotiated prices prior to acceptance may disadvantage Council in ensuring that only a reasonable price is paid for land and that ratepayers are not impacted by Council having to pay a premium.”

She made the point that an extra $600,000 is a hefty premium.

The second passage from those Minutes, said that the Council would “pursue grant funding opportunities where possible to assist with costs”.

Finally she quoted from a late report attached to the agenda for 22nd November, which stated that the “purchase will be funded from loan borrowings with repayments being met from the Commercial Development Reserve”.  She made the point in relation to those two quotes that you were not cash buyers, and were committing the ratepayers to yet more debt on top of existing debt.

She told you that Midcoast Trucks had offered $6.4 million for the site.  She understood that you had agreed to pay $7 million, which is where the premium comes in, and would have expensive alterations to pay for.

Councillor Roberts rose to his feet.  He did not ask her a question.  He said, in a nutshell, that he did not agree with any of Mrs Stanton’s points, and that he had never heard the figures she had quoted before.

I was sitting there in the front row, and I was appalled that this should happen with my wife not being given a right of reply.  It could be inferred from his speech that she had made it up or, worse, was lying.

What Councillor Roberts said was in fact more of a reflection on himself.  It was extraordinary for him to deny the accuracy of what she had quoted.  If he did not know the quotes, then he had not read the documents in which they were contained.

His allegation that he had not heard the figures she quoted was even more peculiar.  Attached to the agenda for the meeting at which she spoke was a heavily censored report which had been before the Council on the 2nd.   All the figures in it had been deleted.  However, the next day, Midcoast trucks sent us an uncensored copy of the report with all the figures in it.  It showed that what Mrs Stanton told the Council was completely accurate.  It showed that the Council’s price leapt from $3.75 million to $7 million, plus $20-30 million for the alterations.  Why pay an extra $600,000 above Midcoast Trucks unless you knew what they had offered?

It follows that either the Councillors had been given the censored version on 2nd November, and were making decisions in the dark, which would be a serious reflection on Mr Handford, or Councillor Roberts had not read the reports and minutes.  One might conclude  that Councillor Roberts had read everything, and was simply being economical with the truth, but I am not making such an allegation.

My last point concerns the loan and interest repayments.  If these are met from the Commercial Development Reserve, the ratepayers lose the benefit of that reserve.  If, as an article in the Manning River Times suggested, the repayments come from Council property investments such as Woolworths in Forster/Tuncurry, then that income will be lost to the bottom line, and whatever benefit the ratepayers used to get from that will be denied them.

Councillors and the General Manager may wish to preside over their kingdom from a new palace in Taree, if the anticipated business plan upholds it, but it is difficult to see how that will benefit the people who live west of Gloucester, or even in it, or those in the deep south-east of the kingdom.  Either they will have to travel to Taree, or they will have to find extra rates for Councillors and staff to drive out to the farthest reaches of their Empire to see their serfs, and the Council will have to maintain offices in all those locations for that purpose.  The prospects of any real economies from this acquisition are illusory.

If the business case fails the project, we will still have a $7 million white elephant to feed and pay for, unless the rumour that it is to be leased to Toll Holdings is true.

It won’t be long before this Council is not fit for the future.

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3 Responses to Your Say

  1. David p says:

    An erudite summary of the poor state of our council

  2. Kevin Wilkinson says:

    It seems to me that Council has handles this purchase very poorly. I understand tat there may have been a short time frame involved but Council has kept the community very much in the dark with such a large infrastructure purchase. I know the Council will need to consolidate its operations and this purchase may be the solution but if this is the reason for the purchase it has not been very well explained to the community without any detailed reasons or business plan to alleviate the communities fears of such a large purchase and possibly debt when there are other priorities in within this council.

  3. Annie Mayne says:

    Not the right time for a hasty purchase at this price with costly renovations to what is simply a large industrial building with a large carpark. This purchase frankly stinks as council was well aware of the plans of another purchaser who was bringing businesses and jobs to Taree. What message does this send to any other business considering relocating to this area? They will be giving it a wide berth and the damage to the reputation of council is irreparable. Watch council rates rise!!!!

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