COMMUNITY outrage in Kendall is at fever pitch, despite a calm and considerate public meeting last week.
The angst stems from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council’s move to ban camping at Kendall Show Ground unless an application is formerly approved and developer contribution fees paid.
Camden Haven Show Society secretary Mavis Barnes said the society could pay the required money for the development application process. However, after a meeting with council officers on the approval process it was revealed the volunteer society would have to pay developer contribution fees adding up to over $120,000.
A public meeting was held on March 12 to discuss options and gauge community support for proceeding with the approval process.
“It was well attended and there were lots of ideas, contributions and opinions put forward,” Mrs Barnes said.
“We had a number of suggestions for action including writing letters to the council and media. Daphne Johnston will be arranging a meeting at the showground with the administrator.
“We were impressed with the calmness of the meeting there was no passionate protest.”
The community is clearly concerned.
Mrs Barnes said the state government recently developed a policy for camping at show grounds to accommodate travellers for a maximum of four nights.
The rapid growth of “grey nomads” and motor homes was generating good income for the Kendall Show Ground and funded several improvement works to not only maintain the facility but enhance it for further community use.
Mrs Barnes said two years ago the travellers stopping at the site injected $14,000 into the Show Ground. Last year the figure grew to $20,000.
“The growth of recreational vehicles travelling around Australia is amazing,” Mrs Barnes said.
“Their short stops were one of the ways show societies were surviving through these tough economic times.”
Mrs Barnes said accommodating short stays was also injecting money into the local economy.
Most showgrounds in NSW are on Crown Land and are under the control of a local council or Lands Department. Only six in NSW are community-owned, three are close by in Kendall, Wauchope and Gloucester.
“These ones are regarded as under private ownership,” Mrs Barnes explained.
“In Gloucester the show ground was granted primitive camp status by their local council with no cost involved because the council recognises the economic value of the short-term traveller.
“We’ve certainly felt the loss since camping was banned here. This financial year to date camping has only generated $235 (it was revealed at the public meeting that the show society is now operating at a loss of $1000 per month). Kendall Show Ground has operated for a long time on a verbal approval from a council officer years ago who said short term camping was ok. It has grown to be an enormous benefit to the show society.
“We understand that the council received a complaint, not from a local, and as a consequence banned the use of the site for camping.”
Following the ban the show society moved to go through the process of formal approval.
“The executive attended a pre development application meeting at the council to begin the process,” Mrs Barnes said.
“It became clear that we and the council were talking about two entirely different things. The council believes the site will be like a caravan park equivalent whereas we would like approval for a primitive camp ground which is entirely different. The primitive category seemed to be unknown to the council officers.
“Kendall already meets the primitive camping requirements, still the council response was there would be a need for a development application, which we would be able to cover, but also developer contribution fees which goes towards the cost of maintaining council’s parks, roads and open spaces.
“It’s not a new facility and we will not be redeveloping the site or the camping areas, nothing will change we are just going through the formal process.
“The show ground was donated to the community 65 years ago and is held in trust.
“Negotiations are going on. We believe it is within the council’s power to waive the cost but Port Macquarie-Hastings Council so far has not gone down that path.
“Without the camping it will be more difficult to remain viable. We will be left to fundraise and apply for grants which is a stressful process.
“We’re not aiming to make a huge issue out of this until we’ve recognized we’ve come to the absolute end of other avenues.
“We just want some consideration in terms of the economic benefit the site provides to the whole community.”
Matt Rogers, director of development and environmental services said the show ground camping would be a commercial venture and would operate under the same rules as other caravan parks.
“The showground wants to operate a caravan/camp ground on their land,” Mr Rogers said.
“At this stage they do not have approval for this activity and it is one that requires development consent. Under our developer contributions plans, if they gained consent (and they haven’t made an application at this stage) they would be liable to pay contributions of around $7,900 per site.
“We have advised the showground that they can allow camping on the site where it is ancillary to a normal showground use, e.g. carnival operators camping on site or participants in a show jumping competition camping on site. However, if they wish to operate a caravan park/campground, then they need to obtain approval like any other commercial operator and pay the required contributions.”