Kempsey Shire Council moved a recommendation at the April ordinary council meeting that puts in motion a plan for the future of the Macleay Valley Coast Holiday Parks.
Councillors discussed the recommendation for over two hours at the April meeting and raised community concerns regarding the changes of fees for annual licence holders, specifically at Hat Head Holiday Park, as well as the issues surrounding plans for cabins along the eastern boundary of the Crescent Head Holiday Park and on the headland at Horseshoe Bay Holiday Park.
Councillor Anna Shields added an amendment to the original motion that will see the alternate plan for both Crescent Head and Horseshoe Bay Holiday Parks adopted by council as the 10-year concept plans.
The alternate plans do not include six cabins along the eastern boundary of the Crescent Head Holiday Park or the five proposed cabins on the headland at Horseshoe Bay Holiday Park. The plans will instead retain the existing camping and caravan sites at both parks.
The 10-year concept plans for Grassy Head, Hat Head and Stuarts Point Holiday Parks were also adopted.
A number of community members attended the public forum on Monday afternoon in support of Crescent Head resident Maria Johnson who spoke against the recommendation.
"We ask councillors to support the alternate plan for Crescent Head Holiday Park," Maria said.
"Six cabins is a direct contradiction of the plan for Crescent Head. Boxy cabins will change the character of the foreshore."
Crescent Head resident Paul Hayllar spoke for the recommendation put to councillors and said upgrading the holiday park will create more positive returns for council which will be re-invested into crown lands.
"We elected councillors to do a job and it's council's responsibility that their finances are being kept," he said.
Council's director corporate Stephen Mitchell said the recommendation tabled at the meeting came together through extensive engagement with licence holders, businesses, holiday park managers, visitors and the broader community.
"The report is based on significant community engagement and a social and economic impact assessment undertaken by Locale Consulting," he said.
Councillor Dean Saul spoke for the recommendation and said the strategic focus of the upgrade and long-term plans for the holiday parks is to increase the revenue generated by the parks and allow council to fund future improvements to crown lands.
"The proposed developments within the Macleay Valley Coast Holiday Parks 10-year concept plans achieve this objective," he said.
Councillor Mark Baxter spoke against the original recommendation and said changing the holiday park at crescent Head to allow for more upmarket cabins would change the character of the town.
"I agree that we need to think about tourism and population increase, but having cabins on the eastern boundary of the park would be transforming the park instead of improving it," he said.
Councillor Leo Hauville agreed: "It will send a worrying message to the community if we lock-in cabins on the foreshore that you can only stay here if you have enough money to afford the cabins," he said.
The discussion also centered around annual licence holders, specifically at Hat Head Holiday Park.
"We acknowledge that the analysis captured at Hat Head Holiday Park was different to the others in our LGA," Mr Mitchell said.
"This recommendation will mean the removal of seven annual licence sites, with progressively more to be lost over time. These will be looked at closer to when the changes are proposed."
The plans outline a transparent roadmap for the rationalisation of the annual sites. The research for the strategy determined that while short-term tourist site rates increased by 44 per cent over the past five years the rate for annual sites only increased by 14 per cent during the same period.
In order to assist in bridging this gap, the plans propose that annual licence sites fees and charges are increased by 25 per cent at Grassy Head, Stuarts Point, Hat Head and Crescent Head.
An administration fee, inspection fee, removal fee and air conditioning fee are also proposed. In return, the plan increases the maximum number of nights per year that the annual sites can be inhabited from 150 to 180 nights. There will also be a staged reduction in the number of annual licence sites over the next ten years.
Following a long discussion, councillors decided to adopt the amended recommendation and set in motion a plan for the Macleay Valley Coast Holiday Parks.
These plans outline a vision for every aspect of the five council operated holiday parks, providing a long-term strategy for improving all of the crown lands under council management and a short-term solution for improving balance of equity between annual licence holders and other visitors.
General manager, Craig Milburn, welcomed the adoption of the plan for this vital council service.
"Our council has a vision to establish itself as a leading regional tourist destination creating a strong visitor economy. This can only happen through the development of iconic natural visitor attractions, driving growth in high-yield and environmentally sustainable tourism, and crucially meeting the demand for temporary accommodation," he said.
The proposed change in Annual Licence Fees and Charges will now be placed in the draft 2021-22 Fees and Charges document which goes on public exhibition this week.
Locals can view the full plans for the Macleay Valley Coast Holiday Parks on council's website.
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