Ku-ring-gai Council plans to sell more community assets

One has to delve into the Ku-ring-gai Council’s Community Strategic Plan’s detailed attachments to unearth the basis of the Strategic Plan.

Unfortunately, the Draft Long Term Financial Plan (DLTFP) accompanying the Strategic Plan, highlights Council’s objective to sell $110 million of community assets over the next 10 years.

FOKE continues to stress that the sale of community assets remains detrimental to the long-term amenity, health and character of Ku-ring-gai. With the impost from NSW Planning to demand further population increases in Ku-ring-gai, the loss of the community assets that could be utilised as playgrounds, ovals, open space and community services buildings is negative to the vision espoused for Ku-ring-gai in the Strategic Plan of an interconnected community appreciating our natural and heritage character.

The DLTFP is heavily supported by the sale of supposedly ‘underutilised’ assets, without the mention of the largest asset of 828 Pacific Highway which has been very much underutilised to meet council or community needs.

Going back to the early 2000’s it was understood by the community that the Council Chambers and council’s car park would be proposed for a ‘Gordon Hub’ not 828 Pacific Highway which we understand is the current plan. We believe the house blocks adjoining council’s car park bought by council for a park on the west side of Gordon adjacent to the shopping precinct, are now a potential additional council asset being considered for sale and redevelopment.

Community assets are not an ever-ending source of funds for Council. Continuing in this manner to maintain a sustainable budget will eventually spell financial disaster, while undermining the key elements that make Ku-ring-gai such a wonderful area to live.

Though the early years of this financial plan highlight spending on park development, this quickly dissipates in the outward years. Very few new parks are planned while community assets such as bowling and recreation clubs, 3 libraries and public halls such as the Pymble Town Hall, car park and Presbytery, and Lindfield senior citizen community hall, affordable housing units and two tennis courts (on the Lindfield Library site) are planned to be sold and redeveloped, are just some of the assets to be disposed by Council.

Outlined in the DLTFP was an alternative financial scenario without asset sales which was seen as similarly ‘financially sustainable in terms of maintaining a balanced budget, sufficient unrestricted cash and available working capital, sufficient cash reserves and a permissible debt service ratio over the medium term’.

The intergenerational equity of retaining existing assets close to residential areas for use by residents into the future should be council’s primary purpose. The office block at 828 Pacific Highway should be the first asset to be sold as it does not add to the amenity of residents in terms of community services, recreation or engagement.

Council’s own Open Space Program highlights numerous areas where parks and playgrounds need to be built or expanded, such as in West Roseville and Lindfield west of the Highway. The Lindfield Hub will allow for hundreds of new residents with no significant open space for play and recreation within close proximity. With this overdevelopment planning scenario played out for other planned council Hubs in Turramurra and Gordon.

The determination of ‘underutilised assets’ (assets which have for years been deliberately allowed to run down by council) for sale will continue to be an area of concern for residents both for the short and long term as these sites, once sold these assets will be lost forever for the amenity of our ever-growing population.