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July 14th, 2018 by admin

Union fears Berry Sport and Rec Centre privatisation plan

Public Service Association (PSA) regional organiser Tony Heathwood (centre) with members outside the Berry Sport and Recreation Centre. Picture: Hayley WardenThe Public Service Association (PSA) is mounting a fight against the potential privatisation ofthe Berry Sport and Recreation Centre.
Nanjing Night Net

Union representatives will meet with Kiama MP Gareth Ward on Thursday afternoon to talk through the government’s plan for the future of thewell-known centre.

Synonymous with school camps, the facility spans62 hectares of rural farmland on the outskirts of Berry.

However, the PSA fears the site’s accessibility as an outdoor education provider will disappear following any shake-up of its operations.

The Baird government isconsideringprivatising centres across the state, as part of an investigation into ways to improve service delivery.

PSA regional organiser Tony Heathwoodfears the Berry centre could be “taken out of community hands and operation for a substantial unknown period of time”.

“Which, if the port’s any indication, [could be] up to 99 years,” Mr Heathwoodsaid, citingthe long-term lease of Port Kembla port.

“[Ninety-nine years] isa hell of a long time to lose a community asset, even if it is leased.”

Mr Heathwood said the PSA was alsoconcerned about a“lack of transparency”.

“The government is not open and transparent about the process, in particular, and the cost-benefit to the community,” he said.

“It’s all about a short-term, sugar-hitcash injection.”

The unionwants the government toguarantee the Berry centrewill remain affordable and accessible to those who useit and an assurance it wouldremainpart of the school curriculum.

Uncertainty also lingers over the future of the 20 staff employed at the centre.

“A lot of those jobs are currently insecure, they’re in temporary employment, so they’ll become more insecure,” he said.

“There’s a concern for their jobs … going forward.

“The guarantees that the government has made in previous similar privatisations have not proven to be very satisfactory.”

The news of a potential operator shake-up comes after the government allocated money in its 2016-17 budget for the construction ofanatural outdoor play space at the Berry centre.

The play spaceis the first of itskind at such a facility inNSW and will allow children to explore anarea sans traditional equipment or “soft fall” surfacing underfoot.

Stage oneof thatproject should becompletethis year.

CAMP GROUNDS ‘NOT FOR SALE’The minister responsible forthe state’s sport and recreation centres says the government is exploring ways to improve the facilities, buthas no plan to sell them off.

Stuart Ayres, the Minister for Sport, told theMercury theinvestigations were in their early stages.

“The NSW government is committed to ensuring sport and recreation centres continue to provide high quality outdoor education programs for schools and sporting groups, as well as key facilities for other community groups to use,” Mr Ayres said.

“There are no plans to sell sport and recreation centres, including at Berry.”

Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said the government wanted to“maximise these centres and ensure the services and the recreation activities the community wants are occurring there”.

“We will always try and get the best possible use out of public assets for the community. The union will always try and run its scare campaigns,” Mr Ward said.

Mr Ayres said consultation, including with the Public Service Association,was ongoing.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.