The two blocks of land that will be sold to extend Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park.
The two blocks of land that will be sold to extend Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Council sells land to State Govt

BEACHFRONT land at Lennox Head, owned by Ballina Shire Council, will be sold to the State Government for just over $1.3 million, after a close vote at yesterday's council meeting.

The vote was 5-5 on the rescission motion that would have reversed the decision to sell the two blocks in Ross St to the North Coast Accommodation Trust.

But with mayor Phillip Silver's casting vote, the motion was lost.

The council's commercial services manager, Paul Tsikleas, will now start negotiations with the trust, after general manager Paul Hickey declared a non-significant, non-pecuniary conflict of interest.

This was based on "perceptions" of a personal relationship with NCAT administrator, Jim Bolger.

Cr Jeff Johnson said selling the land was a mistake.

"There are clearly going to be more pressures in this already congested area into the future," he said.

"These two blocks of land are very strategic landholdings and we should not be selling them."

Cr Silver said the issue had become "highly politicised".

"I happen to believe we are very fortunate to have the State Government looking to acquire it," he said.

Cr Robyn Hordern agreed: "This appears to be an asset that is ideal to sell."

But president of the Lennox Head Residents' Association, Fred Goodman, said the decision was "very disappointing".

"I resent the assumption that our only concern was for the locals of Lennox Head," he said.

"The implication that we think the Lake Ainsworth precinct is only for our benefit is insulting.

"We sought to retain that land so we could improve amenity for the residents and all of our visitors."

The council has also released the independent valuation of the land, after The Northern Star made a formal application for the document under the Government Information (Public Access) Act.

The report was done by Taylor Byrne Pty Ltd in March last year and states that the valuation was done for "rental assessment purposes" and that it was "current as at the date of valuation only".

Mr Tsikleas said the council had offered the land for rent to the Crown for just over $30,000, which is half of the market rent.

But he said the Crown instead offered to pay $5000 a year.

This was rejected by the council.

No rent has been paid by the Crown to the council.