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Please Don't Shoot The Messenger!


tonyhTue, 14/02/2017 - 10:16am

North Arm Cove Boating Development Plan
   A response to a letter from property owners

These comments are in response to a letter written by two long-term Cove property owners about the Boating Now's feasibility study into a boat ramp and jetty in North Arm Cove.

The letter included a report on the suitability of Medina Bay and was addressed to Kate Washington with, I believe,  copies to the MidCoast Council. It now appears that the letter is in open circulation in our community but without the report. 

It would seem the writers had two intentions when writing this letter. The first was to put a stop to any proposal for a community boat facility in Medina Bay.  Their house is close to Medina Bay and they are understandably concerned about the prospects of such a development in very close proximity to their property.

The second intention seems to be to publicly take a shot at the NACRA Committee for the way it conducts its affairs in North Arm Cove. Having worked on the Committee for the last 11 years, I am saddened about this aspect of the letter and I feel the need to respond.

  1. NACRA Executive Committee's involvement in the Boating Now assessment process

The State Government initiated a Boating Strategy review around early 2013 in response to a rapidly growing need for facilities in this and other areas. Draft Boating Strategy/Boating Now proposals were released around mid 2014 which highlighted smaller towns such as Tahlee and North Arm Cove where a deficit of waterway access facilities for the boating public was identified.

The NACRA Committee responded favourably to this draft by affirming our village's need, but did not make site recommendations.

A lengthy evaluation process was eventually undertaken by consultants engaged by Boating Now which included a feasibility study, public consultation and a draft report published in September 2016. This draft report identified only two sites in our village as being suitable for the construction of a boat ramp and jetty.

The final report with recommendations was presented to our (new) council n the last few weeks. The NACRA Committee has not seen this final report.

The points to note are:

  • The NACRA Committee did not initiate this process.
  • The NACRA Committee did meet with the consultants in March 2016 and provided a full history of failed efforts over 20+ years to get a facility.
  • The Committee provided a list of all locations previously considered.
  • The Committee did not make any recommendations for location at Medina Bay or anywhere else.
  • The NACRA Committee has had no part in the study, in the selection of sites or in the draft and final reports and their recommendations.

2. The role of the NACRA Executive Committee in our community

The NACRA  Committee is a freely elected body set up to represent the voice of the North Arm Cove community. It is made up purely of volunteers who can spend many hundreds of hours working for the people of the village. It is an incorporated association which means it is the only body in our village authorised to apply for grants, and to manage funding on behalf of the NAC community.

As such, the Committee has to be extremely careful that its responsibility is not abused. So transparent written procedures are in place to assure this doesn't happen.

(Anyone is very welcome to apply to join the Committee. Elections are held each year and new members are welcomed with open arms!)

The letter raises issues which demonstrate a lack of understanding of the NACRA Committee's role. To be specific, I refer to some of the criticisms or comments (in italics) made in the letter.

  • "This proposal has been repeatedly rejected....." This is true, and there are good reasons for this - financial, environmental and community concerns being the main ones. The Boating Now assessment process and subsequent funding would conclusively address the first two issues.  However community concerns would remain the big sticking point. It was hoped by the NACRA Committee that, being experienced in this kind of study, the consultants would  conduct a full assessment of the impact on our community,  resulting in recommendations for practical solutions to the problems that arise from this kind of development.
  • "NACRA does not represent the views of all property holders." Again true. But then the Committee doesn't  attempt to - that isn't our charter. The NACRA organisation exists to improve the amenity of our village by gathering public opinion through surveys and discussion, by proposing solutions or ways forward and then, once the community has spoken, by finding the resources to get the job done. The Committee never moves in isolation and without seeking community opinion and majority approval.
  • "NACRA doesn't represent the views of the property owners at  Medina Bay." The NACRA Committee does not support the demands of any individual or any special group to the exclusion of the rest of the village. Nor does the Committee have an agenda supporting a boat ramp at Medina Bay. The Committee only supports what our community wants. Frankly the boat ramp issue has for many years been the biggest headache for the Committee. It's a thankless task - the Committee knows it can't win whichever way the dice falls. But the Committee is still working to see if a solution can be found to this, the most contentious issue on its agenda. And if anyone can suggest a better process, I'm certain we would be very pleased to hear of it. Committee members themselves have little to gain from a boat ramp in our village.
  • "The current support by NACRA of the boat ramp is entirely hypocritical to its stated role." The role of the NACRA Committee quoted in the letter by the writers is correct and I challenge anyone in the community to demonstrate how the actions of the Committee can be described as hypocritical.
  • It is interesting that the writers object on the grounds of a "Failure to properly consult" and yet are able to quote figures from the public exhibition of the consultant's proposal on the number of submissions received ("56 submissions received, 55% - the majority of respondents -  in approval of Medina Bay, the remainder approving Bracken's Bay"). The writers have clearly found the information they want, when they want it, in support of their protest. The information is not hidden but available to the wider community. There have been many discussions and meetings on this subject, all broadcast well in advance and, when NACRA meetings have been held, they have been minuted and posted on the Cove's website.
  • "Noise and visual impacts - could not be mitigated." This is a statement from the consultant's report. The potential for mitigation of the impacts is not explored in the report.   But if the statement is in fact correct, I can't imagine anyone in the community supporting a cause which will make fellow residents' lives a misery.
  • "No evidence of demand for a boat ramp at NAC." This is absolutely and categorically wrong. Survey after survey conducted over many years has shown a boat ramp at North Arm Cove to be at the very top of our residents' wish list.
  • "RMS has already funded multiple boating facilities for NAC", and, "How much taxpayer money is going to be spent on boating facilities?" The community, through the efforts of the NACRA Committee, has received only one grant for a waterfront facility in NAC in more than 20 years of effort. That was for the couple of very small dinghy ramps, awarded more than three years ago and under construction now. However, the writers' comments seems to suggest that that's all NAC deserves and no more is justifiable. I leave that proposition to the community's judgement. The fact is that councils no longer have money in the kitty for improving community amenities. They struggle to maintain even those we have. Pretty well every new facility we get here is won by hard work in applying for government grants. Without these grants, we wouldn't today have a community hall, a fire brigade, a tennis court, a kiddies playground, the dinghy ramps and the village green (work in progress).

As things stand, we in the NACRA Committee have no idea what decisions will come out of the feasibility study. It is a sad fact though that this may be the last opportunity for a very long time to finally get a boating facility wanted by so many people in our  community.  

Tony Hann

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