As part of Council's investment in upgrading its assets and infrastructure, a review of public amenities is underway with the intent of upgrading older amenities and constructing new facilities that:
- provide and maintain a safe, accessible, high quality and sustainable network of public amenities.
- improve the accessibility of public amenities for people with special needs.
- addresses new challenges like COVID-19 that allow a higher standard of cleaning and hygiene practice.
On review against other like councils within NSW it was identified that Bellingen Shire Council has a considerably higher number of public amenities per capita by a significant margin. As such, our constrained maintenance budget is more thinly spread across a higher number of facilities and impacts on the associated level of service that we can provide to the community.
The intent of Council in undertaking the review is to allow for increased investment in a reduced number of publicly accessible facilities to improve the overall level of service provided to our community and visitors.
To progress this, an assessment was made of the geographical location and separation of existing public amenities to establish the following:
- CLASS 1 - Is the existing public amenity located in a key public area which supports visitation to the community and should be available 24/7 (eg. major public parks or central business areas). These may be supplemented by amenities available through other commercial operations (eg. service station);
- CLASS 2 - Is the existing public amenity located in a public area which supports community activities which can be made available during specific events (eg. sporting fields) but closed at other times;
- CLASS 3 - Is the existing public amenity in close proximity to another suitable facility which warrants that it could be removed without a significant reduction to the overall level of service provided within the community.
In response to this, Council staff have undertaken an assessment of facilities across our region including in Dorrigo, Bellingen, Mylestom, Thora and Urunga. The main observation of staff is that a number of facilities are identified as CLASS 2 which are required for regular community events (eg. sporting competition) but are not necessarily required to be publicly accessible 24/7. In consideration of this preliminary assessment, Council staff have been consulting with S355 Committees which operate assets (for example sportsgrounds) which include an identified CLASS 2 amenity to investigate options for the ongoing management of these amenities.
Once this information has been collated by Council staff, the process will be to review against our original assessment ahead of undertaking broader community engagement on any proposed changes and ultimately, prepare a report to Council for consideration.
The intention of the review is to provide opportunity for Council to progressively upgrade older public amenities and construct new facilities that offer an improved level of service to the wider community.