Thursday, 18 February 2021
Blair Electorate: Ipswich Hockey Association
Much has been said about the government's Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program, but my criticism today is not of the government but of the Ipswich City Council. Today I want to express my dismay and disappointment with the conduct of the Ipswich City Council in its mishandling of an application for $500,000 of money under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant for the benefit of the Ipswich Hockey Association and sport in Ipswich generally.
The council received that grant in February 2019. The history of this is that the land is owned by the Ipswich Hockey Association and the council has a long-term lease over it. The council could have let the hockey association apply for the grant in the first place but it didn't. There was a grant of $500,000 and a $1.1 million contribution from the council towards lighting, irrigation and reconfiguration of the fields for the multipurpose sports use in Ipswich. But guess what? Within months, the council went to the hockey association and said, 'We're not going to go ahead unless we buy the land at a ridiculously low price.' Then the hockey association had to lawyer up and offer a long-term lease to the council for a peppercorn rent of $1.
This all happened at a time when the Ipswich City Council was in a period of administration. A new council got in—a new mayor and councillors got in—and accepted the nonsense from the council officers. They wouldn't even meet with the Ipswich Hockey Association, but then made the decision to not proceed with the application, with the $500,000 from the federal government. I wrote to the CEO of the Ipswich City Council on 2 November 2020, expressing my disappointment and saying, 'This money can't be lost to Ipswich'. He wrote back to me saying that the council had made a decision not to proceed with the capital works program and that, although it offered potential benefit to the community, they said that it wasn't in the best interests of the community or an appropriate use of council funds. There was no fact unknown to the council either during the administration or since. In addition they said, 'The ongoing maintenance costs would be on an annual basis.' The council knew that anyway. They also said that the Ipswich Hockey Association advised that it 'wouldn't benefit their association immediately or provide additional beneficial use.' That is untrue. The Ipswich Hockey Association had told the council that they could play hockey in summer and not just winter.
I have met with council officers as a result of this, and their position was arrogant and supercilious. I have spoken to councillors in Ipswich about this. The Ipswich City Council has treated the Ipswich Hockey Association disgracefully. This is a great disappointment for sport in Ipswich. I call on the mayor and the councillors in Ipswich to do better. This sets a very bad precedent for sport in Ipswich. The council should do better. The current council shouldn't have acted lemming like to accept the council officers' inexplicable conduct in relation to this.