Movie studio vs community centre: Angst over decision
NINE community groups on the Plateau have written an open letter to Ballina Shire's mayor and councillors, demanding to be heard on the future of the Alstonville Cultural Centre.
The council recently agreed to lease the centre to Byron Studios.
It will bring a new industry to the shire, with Byron Studios expected to firm up plans for a $16 million production now that it has a venue.
The company is also progressing with plans for a permanent home in the Innovation Precinct in Ballina.
But the decision to hand over the keys to the Alstonville Cultural Centre has taken many people in the community by surprise.
Nine community groups ‒ Alstonville Community Basketball, Alstonville Lions Club, Alstonville Plateau Historical Society, Alstonville Plateau Physical Culture, Alstonville Social Justice Group, Alstonville Wollongbar Chamber of Commerce, Quota Alstonville, Wollongbar Progress Association and the Wollongbar Garden Club ‒ have written to the councillors to express their concerns.
"This council decision has been taken quietly, without any community consultation, resulting in angst within the community, and causing division, as local people try to clarify the possible repercussions of council's decision," the letter states.
"Many sporting, cultural and service organisations will be unable to continue their community activities, or will be forced to relocate to alternative, less appropriate, sites.
"This, at a time when community groups and organisations are already suffering the financial impacts of COVID-19.
"As a result, the community calls upon Ballina Shire Council for improved communication between Council and the Plateau community."
The groups have specific expectations of going forward, which are outlined in the letter, and they want the council to commit to their requests "in writing" at an ordinary council meeting.
● No extension of the currently approved lease time frame (two years)
● Alternative appropriate accommodation on the Plateau for community users of the centre, without those users incurring any additional out of pocket expenses
● If appropriate alternative accommodation cannot be found, those groups are to be compensated for their loss
● A guarantee the community will get the centre back by January 2024 (this allows for the two-year lease and one year to redevelop the building)
● A guarantee that any future council proposals be referred to the community through a proper consultative process.
"We ask for openness and honesty in all council deliberations that impact the Alstonville Plateau community, and informed community consultation before decisions are made," the letter states.
"As citizens and ratepayers, we are required to consult and make application to council for any changes that impact on our community.
"We expect the same from our elected representatives."