Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer has responded to critics of a waterfront land sale with his vision to plough the proceeds into better sporting facilities.
The proposed sale of 109 Foreshore Drive, Salamander Bay, left conservationists outraged last week amid fears a new home on the site, offering million-dollar views, would unfairly limit access to the waterfront.
Reduce access it might, but Cr Palmer rubbished suggestions it would block it, as he pointed to the reservation of a similarly sized park beside it.
He pledged that the proceeds would kick start the $65 million redevelopment of Tomaree Sports Complex, recently put on public exhibition.
“The facts are we are selling R2 zoned land, we’re not selling the reserve, the reserve is remaining,” he said.
“The proceeds are going to a great cause.”
Poised to benefit from the sale are the various sports clubs that use the Tomaree Sports Complex. The plans allow for new change rooms, better car parking, re-development of the No. 1 sports ground, a gym within the pool and a landscaped footpath to link it all.
The complex already hosts the Peter Wilson Memorial touch football championship and could in future, according to council staff, host more big ticket state carnivals.
“We don’t want these plans sitting idle, we want them funded, and this would give us a good start on the first two stages – hopefully matched by the state government,” Cr Palmer said.
The master plan for the Tomaree Sports Complex sets out 36 points for improvement.
The two priorities are a new sports pavilion at the centre of the grounds, including amenities, store and office, and resizing Don Waring Field to accommodate two full sized soccer fields or four touch fields.
Cr Palmer will present plans for a sale at the next council meeting on May 22.
His report will note that lot 109 has sat unused since the adjoining lots along the waterfront were created through a subdivision in the 1950s.
Cr Palmer also noted that the reserve was gazetted at that time.
Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association president Geoff Washington said the council should consider its options carefully.
“We don’t oppose better facilities for sports clubs, it’s just a matter of how you fund it,” he said.
“Maybe council should consider one of its other investments, over selling waterfront land, which isn’t a good option.
“If they sell one choice piece of waterfront land they might be tempted to sell others, which would leave no waterfront land for the public to enjoy.”