Medowie Community Preschool to ink cheaper rental agreement with Port Stephens Council

BACK ON TRACK: Medowie Community Preschool president Jacqui Hrast and her son, Elliot. Picture: Sam Norris
BACK ON TRACK: Medowie Community Preschool president Jacqui Hrast and her son, Elliot. Picture: Sam Norris

A new rental agreement will ensure that preschool students have a place at a Medowie facility for years to come.

The Medowie Community Preschool was built through largely charitable activities 31 years but the land has belonged to Port Stephens Council even longer, since the estate’s developer signed over the two lots. 

“The trouble was it was all back of the envelope-type stuff back then,” Medowie Community Preschool president Jacqui Hrast said.

“The council had tried to [formalise this] but it had put us in the same basket as other preschools, it has purpose built, and the rent reflected that.”

The not-for-profit preschool last year entered into a $5600 annual rent agreement, for 10 years.

Being a community preschool it charges parents about a quarter of what commercial operations do.

Ms Hrast calculated that $5600 was equivalent to 229 hours of diploma-level teachers aid time, or twice the annual allocation for teaching equipment and supports.

After 2026, the council had advised the preschool that rent would be charged at market value, pushing higher again.

“We would have had to close our doors if it had ever come to that,” Ms Hrast said.

“Based on the land value the rent would have become $35,000 a year.”

Cr Chris Doohan

Cr Chris Doohan

Deputy mayor, Cr Chris Doohan, has instead managed to negotiate a land-only lease that was approved at the July 11 council meeting.

“I asked the staff can we please look at some other options,” he said.

“One of those was to gift the land to them but it was going to cost $80,000 in application fees and it would have needed ministerial approval.”

The council resolution last Tuesday was met with cheers and tears.

“What we’ve come back with is a win for them and secures their future for years to come,” Cr Doohan said.

“It’s affordable, agreeable and they’re covered by insurance.”

Once the agreement is drawn up the preschool is expected to pay but a fraction of the $5600.

Ms Hrast said the preschool would then be able to get on with the job and care for its 63 enrollments.

“We’re hopeful this will be dealt with in the next month,” she said.