News

Council remains split over cost of port management

by
April 21, 2017

Cr Daniel Mackrell’s alternative motion to not sell the property, provide a temporary lease, and develop a strategy around the port precinct, which was successful.

CAMPASPE Shire Council voted against selling the Wistaria Tea Rooms building at the council meeting on Tuesday night.

But not without opposition from some of the councillors.

The original recommendation asked council agree to the sale of its property at 51 Murray Esplanade, Echuca.

But it was Cr Daniel Mackrell’s alternative motion to not sell the property, provide a temporary lease, and develop a strategy around the port precinct, which was successful.

However, not everyone agreed it was the best move.

Former mayor Leigh Wilson, Neil Pankhurst and Leanne Pentreath all voted against it, while Cr Annie Vickers declared a direct conflict of interest with the matter, being ‘‘in a partnership with the lessee (Eric Grumont)’’.

Cr Wilson said he was a defender of the Port but the alternative motion would ‘‘solidify’’ council’s involvement with the precinct.

‘‘We just can’t afford all of the infrastructure that we have … but overall I look at my time in the past four years; defending, defending, defending the port amongst the public – especially outside of Echuca – time and time again they say … ‘we spend all this money down there, when are you going to stop spending money?

When are you going to sell the infrastructure down there? When are you going to give us money for our pools, for our roads’?”

Cr Pankhurst also spoke against the motion, saying it was too “open” and could provide a disservice to all parties involved.

He foreshadowed if the motion was lost he would move the original motion. Cr Pankhurst said it was also a policy of council to review the assets it owns.

‘‘The suggestion we are selling it without any thought or consideration … I don’t agree with,’’ he said.

Cr Pankhurst said there were no details about how or when the strategy would be developed, and no allocation within the draft 2017-18 budget for the strategy, which was put out to the public at the meeting.

Cr John Zobec said he had concerns and questioned why other buildings council owned in the port were not sold when the lease ended, specifically for the Star Hotel and Bridge Hotel.

‘‘Why wasn’t the Bridge Hotel sold?’’ he said.

‘‘So what makes this one different?’’

Cr Mackrell said there needed to be a strategy for the port area.

‘‘I do believe we need to make sure we have a strategy for one of our premier tourism areas . . . we need to make sure what we do now and in the future is the best thing we can do for our community,’’ he said.

While Cr Vicki Neele said there were too many ‘‘unanswerables’’ if the building were to be sold.

She said Echuca’s ‘‘keynote marketing item’’ could become a ‘‘dead area’’, particularly with the building across the street (formerly known as Oscar W’s) still sitting empty.

Wistaria’s temporary lease will be reviewed once council has an endorsed port precinct strategy, which will include the future of its land holdings in that area.

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