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Council to sell Blue Haven Bonaira

The Bugle App

Cathy Law

13 October 2022, 8:00 AM

Council to sell Blue Haven Bonaira

An Extraordinary Meeting of Kiama Council has agreed to sell Blue Haven Bonaira, with Labor Councillor Stuart Larkins siding with the Mayor Neil Reilly, and Councillors Brown, Steel and Croxford to vote for the amended rescission motion.

The Mayor argued that the Minister for Local Government wanted to see decisive action being taken, “The Minister sent us one letter, it was a warning, we ignored it. A week later she sent a letter which says it is her intention to issue Performance Improvement Orders and install a financial advisor.

“I have no doubt that what the Minister wants is a very clear signal that we are prepared to take the hard decisions.”

The councillors against the amended motion – Rice, Renkema-Lang, Keast and Draisma - argued the opposite, saying that the Minister’s letter and attachment outlining her expectations showed that she wanted all options to be considered through proper business cases that are expected to be completed by December.

“The proposed action in the Improvement Order states ‘prepare a business case for options relating to the facility [Blue Haven], and review the operation of the facility to enable Council to make a decision about the retention, sale or lease of the facility’,” said Councillor Jodi Keast.

“The Improvement Order states exactly what we need to do, and what we have been asking for. Deciding to sell Blue Haven Bonaira today will not stop the Improvement Order being issued and it does not solve deficits in the years beyond 2024 that arise from normal Council business operations.”

Councillor Renkema-Lang agreed, “This motion does not address the directive or concerns raised by the Minister.”

She said in her view the motions put to Council on Blue Haven to date have been “reactive, premature and not well thought out, not backed with sufficient evidence or with the necessary financial impact assessments.” She sees them as leading to the Minister’s letters.

“I think it is a furphy and misleading for the councillors of this committee to state that the letters from the Minister of Local Government imply we have to make a decision tonight about the sale of Blue Haven.”

Councillor Draisma, who had foreshadowed a motion to revert to an amended version of the rescission motion [Draisma: Need for all options to be considered], said that three weeks had been wasted in getting back to the Minister after being provided with figures from KPMG which showed Council needs to find $30-$40 million over the next years. She believes this may have caused the Notice of Intention.

In explaining how he would vote, Councillor Larkins said, “The risk of doing nothing is greater than doing something.”

He said, while Blue Haven was a good idea 40 years ago, “I am not convinced that the scale or expansion of aged care services by Kiama Council that has been embarked on over the last five years was required or justified.”

He went on to say, “I want to ensure our Council is sustainable long term, and my decision tonight is based on trying to protect and sustain the core role of local government in Kiama.

“My decision is based on the information I have received accumulating over the past 10 months.”

Speaking for the motion, Councillor Brown said, “You can’t run a major aged care operation and run a council.

“It is draining time, money and resources.”

An amendment to the motion adding criteria for the buyer – that they be not for profit, have excellent standards and have a local connection – failed to pass.