Bega Valley Shire Council has admitted that it borrowed money from the car parking reserve and transferred it to the general fund to use for town beautification but maintains that its actions were completely legal.
The comments follow the launch of several salvos at council by developer Robert Green, who has expressed his concern over the amount of car parking in Merimbula. Mr Green has been pursuing council over developer car parking contributions (section 94 contributions) made over a number of years.
“Section 94 car parking contributions are like trust monies. They must be kept separate from other council money. They can only use them to build new car parking. They must be used in a way to meet the needs of the development which made the contribution and they must be used soon after the contribution was made. For every single contribution made (in cash or in kind) the council is required to provide one car parking space,” Mr Green said.
In a statement to the News Weekly, (see below) council’s general manager, Leanne Barnes said: “Council is legally entitled to ‘pool’ funds raised through developer contributions to achieve other projects. Current laws state that all borrowed funds must be returned to the original pool and made available for the primary project. In the 1990s and early 2000s council undertook road and foreshore works in Merimbula and ‘pooled’ developer contributions funds to get the work done. As per our legal requirements, all monies borrowed from the Merimbula car parking pool were repaid.”
In a letter to Mr Green, Ms Barnes said that in the late 1990s $300,000 from the reserve was used for beautification and repaid from the general fund in 2005-06.
Car parking will be on the agenda at the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce meeting tonight at Club Sapphire from 6pm. Council’s director of business and strategy, Lucas Scapin is due to speak about car parking, and councillor Kristy McBain will speak about the Merimbula bypass and the airport development.
Merimbula parking funds legally and responsibly allocated
“Regarding recent claims made by Mr Robert Green:
“Council is legally entitled to ‘pool’ funds raised through developer contributions to achieve other projects.
“Current laws state that all borrowed funds must be returned to the original pool and made available for the primary project.
“In the 1990s and early 2000s Council undertook road and foreshore works in Merimbula and ‘pooled’ developer contributions funds to get the work done.
“As per our legal requirements, all monies borrowed from the Merimbula car parking pool were repaid.
“The process was monitored and overseen by Council staff. Councillors were made aware of the matter in annual budget processes.
“Pooling funds in this manner has given the Merimbula community valuable improvements to the town’s infrastructure and the funds are now available in full for the improvement of local parking facilities.
“In relation to car parking in Merimbula, in 2009 Council used funds provided to purchase a site off Main Street (next to the Council’s old branch library site) which has 29 spaces and there is currently $385,000 in the Merimbula car parking fund.
“No formal report of improper action has been made to Council on this matter. Mr Green is welcome to formally report the matter to the General Manager, or directly to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
“Cr Taylor as Chair of Planning and Environment Committee has invited Mr Green to meet with all Councillors and senior staff so he may have his questions answered. To date he has not agreed to attend the meeting.”
“As per standard process, the research required to review the history back to the 1960s would require a GIPA application. Mr Green is also welcome to view Council’s register which is available at the Council Chambers,” Ms Barnes said.
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