Future is grim for ground committee

By Sonia Isaacs

After battling financial uncertainty, a perceived lack of transparency around bureaucratic process, and increasing levels of red tape and compliance obligations; the Beerwah Sportsground Management Committee Inc. (BSMC) will most likely seek to dissolve their involvement in the community held sportsground.

After decades of service to manage and maintain one of the largest sports grounds on the Sunshine Coast, the community-led organisation is considering options to wind up.

Indications that ongoing restrictions on licence provision imposed by Sunshine Coast Council for the grounds campsite – the committee’s main source of income – along with additional factors such as an aging volunteer committee on the brink of burnout, and snowballing compliance and ground maintenance obligations against a backdrop of a dramatically reduced financial capacity suggests the ongoing survival of the BSMC to be almost impossible.

While the outcome is yet to be finalised, it would appear a proposal put forward by Council at the end of October at a meeting with the Sportsground Management Committee and their affiliates will be accepted by the Committee in early 2023.

Committee president David Weil said he felt the volunteer committee members had been “driven to the wall” especially in the last few years with what he felt was ridiculous amounts of red tape and increasing restrictions to income raising activities and previously permitted uses of the grounds. He acknowledged that some of his frustration could be the product of belonging to a different generation where community groups operated collaboratively and successfully without the myriad of rules and regulations required today.

“We have just simply run out of puff to continue to fight to maintain the sportsground as a community held sports and recreation facility,” he said.

“After years of struggling to keep our campgrounds viable and with all the licence restrictions imposed on power and facility usage, responding to increases in Council regulations and compliance requirements, and the huge financial outlay and commitment to maintain the community grounds – we are ready to give up!”

He said the October 31 meeting with Council offered three proposals for the committee to consider including an opportunity for the committee to continue until the expiration of their current management lease in 2027. However, with a Council decision to restrict camping to only a handful of events throughout the year, the income required to effectively manage the grounds had been so reduced, it had effectively made operation of the BSMC unviable.

While the future of the management of the sportsground is still in the process of discussion, the tenure proposal put forward by the Sunshine Coast Council will most likely be adopted by Easter 2023. The proposal recommends BSMC surrenders its lease and responsibility for management of the Sportsground in favour of Council taking on maintenance obligations, with the various user groups and affiliates entering into individual trustee permits.

Over the decades, the Beerwah Sportsground has been home to a diverse range of community gatherings, events, sporting clubs and recreational organisations. Although once customary practice, the community management model is now relatively unique, especially for multi-use facilities within our region, and committee members speculate that a move for Council to take over management of the grounds may have been on the cards for years. Committee member Helen Weil said she felt that over the years Council officers did not seem to have a true understanding of the Hinterland community.

“Most have not even been out to the Sportsground. They didn’t have any idea of how important and how interconnected facilities are within the community.

“They apply the rules, regulations, and local laws without consideration of the consequences and cost to the community. The effect is not just on our income but that of the local community and businesses as well,” said Ms Weil.

She said that she felt the BSMC has just been jollied along, as well as frustrated for the last few years by Council. In some ways she said she felt the committee’s hand was being forced to give up and dissolve the BSMC.

“Why would we want to continue under the Council’s proposal when in fact we will be giving up all rights to anything we currently own and all rights to anything happening on the grounds. Council will make all the decisions and we will just be Trustee Permittees under their total control. The grounds will lose its character and personality. It just won’t be the same,” Ms Weil said.

GC&M News approached Sunshine Coast Council for comment with a spokesperson confirming that at a recent workshop with Beerwah Sportsground stakeholders, Council proposed three options including a change from an overarching head lease arrangement to individual tenure arrangements for user groups within the facility.

“Under this proposal, Council would assume financial responsibility for common use areas, including car parks and grounds, fixed water and sewer access charges, building insurance, statutory maintenance and structural repairs. The proposed individual tenure arrangements would also provide user groups within the facility more opportunities to apply for grants funding. Council’s proposal has been submitted to the Beerwah Sportsground Management Committee and its affiliates for consideration,” the Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said.

Deputy Mayor and Division 1 Councillor, Rick Baberowski said that Council had been invited to attend a moderated workshop on October 31 hosted by the BSMC. He explained the objective was to present and explore a range of future operational models ranging from very little change to substantial change with Council representatives on hand to answer any questions as required. His understanding of the current status was that options were being explored at the affiliate and member level, with the Sportsground Committee to compile responses and further discuss those at their committee meeting early in December and subsequently forwarded to Council for review.

Cr. Baberowski said he wanted to see the Beerwah Sportsgrounds have the right resources and a deep sense of security about their future which has been uncertain for some time as it has been so dependent on uncertain revenue streams.

“I would hope that what this process achieves is an improvement in the operational model so that the volunteer Sportsground Committee have a much lesser burden in facility management and clarity on an attractive ongoing role for them,” he said.

“In a new model, an ideal would be that the affiliate members would possibly have much more control over their specific facility/facilities.

“The new model could also mean that the common areas are more able to take advantage of recent changes to Council policy and thereby access more Council resources.

“My belief is that this process is moving more towards these objectives, but at this point I think it’s important to respect that this is still an internal process for the Committee, the affiliates, and the members to discuss.

I look forward to hearing of their recommendations.”

David and Helen Weil