Camping site management up for grabs

The responsibility of managing the Mallala and Parham camping sites is up for grabs as Adelaide Plains Council has called for expressions of interest from the public to develop, manage and maintain the sites in a bid to alleviate council from the financial burden of running both grounds.

APC was in negotiations with the Mallala Lions Club to manage the ablutions block, built by the Lions Club in 2013, and the surrounding camping ground, however failed to agree on just one of numerous conditions in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Elected members discussed the controversial topic at January’s council meeting, APC’s general manager of finance and economic development, Rajith Udugampola, explained council was not prepared to foot the bill for the annual cost of the CWMS at the Mallala camping site, which is $586 per annum.

“We agreed on 31 terms of conditions with the Lions Club that was presented to the council, the only thing that wasn’t agreed upon was the CWMS,” Mr Udugampola said.

Mr Udagampola revealed council had been approached by another community group, The Men’s Shed, that had expressed an interest in managing the ground, leading him to recommend a public open expression of interest instead of negotiating with a single group, in the interests of transparency and obtaining ‘the best outcome for the ratepayers.’

“We thought we could use the opportunity to do the same thing with the Parham camping site because council is not in the business of running camping sites.”

Council staff are now of the belief they will be in breach of section 49 of the Local Government Act 1999, if they enter into an agreement with one group, disregarding other interested parties.

Mallala Lions Club member, Neil Slater, is disappointed with the outcome, reiterating during the meeting’s open forum session, ‘the Lions Club is not pursuing this project to make money, it is simply trying to encourage more travellers to come to this great area.’

“The general manager’s attitude towards the camping area is they want to at least cover the rate payers’ costs, understandably, they forget part of the council’s own obligation is to promote tourism.

“There are 68 camping sites within approximately 200km of Mallala and 33 of those are owned by council and have no fees charged whatsoever.

“Those councils are doing their civic duty promoting tourism.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Slater said obtaining a lease for the camping grounds would mean, ‘we have a piece of dirt in our name to get grants and do things council can’t, we just need a bit of help.’

Mr Slater retained council took possession of the ablution block, and responsibility for the infrastructure and utilities, three months after it was built by the Lions Club that had prepared itself to manage the costs and responsibility of the
facility.

“The original MOU between Lions and council was written by council and signed in 2013, now it is saying it is not a legal document.”

“There have been too many changes to the rules,” he said, “and it (council) is blaming us.”

Cr Eddie Stubing spoke in support of the Lions managing the Mallala camping grounds.

“You say we don’t get any money, but we get a lot of money in kind for not having to run this thing.”

“When Lions makes a success of this, the IGA, the hotel, everyone gets a lick off this, it’s not a one-way street for the Mallala Lions Club, these people work for nothing.”

Cr Stubing expressed concern over another community group managing the site, believing  Lions has the necessary experience and manpower in comparison with the Men’s Shed.

Cr Strudwicke supported the motion to seek expressions of interest from the public.

“We need an open and fair process, this is a valuable piece of land, it has commercial value, and so appropriately council should have a lease over that land,” he said.

“Council has the responsibility to get the best deal for its ratepayers, this process will provide that pathway if we support this motion.”

Speaking after the meeting, Norm Dicks, of the Men’s Shed, said the community group will examine the terms and conditions of the lease to see if they are favourable, and make a collective decision as to whether the group would be able to meet them.

“We would look to see if we could run the campsite at no expense to the council,” Mr Dicks said.

“Mallala and Parham are free caravan parks with minimal benefits to the ratepayers.

“The value-adding of the campsites doesn’t offset the thousands of dollars APC puts into the grounds at the rate payers expense.”

Port Parham resident, Alvin Jenkin, said he is extremely disappointed with Adelaide Plains Council for, “hitting us out of the blue like this.”

“For a community of 200 people, it will be hard to find volunteers.”

Mr Jenkin said the costs associated with running the campsite, like garbage, water, electricity and cleaning, “is something we, as the ratepayers, are prepared to pay.”

“The operation of the campground at Port Parham was simple and economic in the past. “Recent actions by council have complicated it, increased operating costs, and alienated the community and the travelling public.”

Elected members were clearly divided on the issue with mayor, Tony Flaherty, casting the deciding vote to support the motion and invite expressions of interest from the public to manage the camping grounds.

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