Council calls out responsibilities for land that isn’t theirs

Cora Lynn Recreation Reserve is on Crown Land. (File: 411355_01)

By Corey Everitt

Cardinia council is being left responsible for developing land that isn’t even there own, saying they ‘can no longer afford to prioritise’ certain projects on State Land in the future.

One third of Victoria is Crown Land, the property of the State. Many park and recreation reserves of Cardinia are Crown Land.

As State-owned, many of these reserves are under delegated management, typically from a volunteer committee of management.

There are nine properties in Cardinia of Crown Land under delegated authority, including Upper Beaconsfield, Cora Lynn and Kooweerup Recreation Reserves.

Even though these reserves are under the authority of the committee of management and its official proprietor, the State, various developments on these sites have become the responsibility of Cardinia Shire Council.

In a submission to the State Government Inquiry into Local Government funding and services, the council said they have been facing increasing pressure from the community and Governments to fund and/or oversee developments on Crown Land.

Council mentioned the construction of a new pavilion at Upper Beaconsfield Recreation Reserve, which in 2023 went through a turbulent renegotiation after the council wished to downsize the scale of the project.

Through the intervention of the State Government, the council’s contribution to the project was set to $3.6 million, just under the State’s own contribution.

Council also mentioned a recent case, which they didn’t directly identify, regarding the funding for a court resurfacing for the Kooweerup Netball Courts was pulled from the draft 2024-25 council budget.

The move was said to be one of ‘difficult decisions’ made in the budget that resulted in ‘reputational issues’ for the council in these Crown Land matters.

“The community cannot differentiate between Council or Crown Land managed sites,” the submission said.

Regarding the Netball Court matter, “members from both State and Federal government are actively lobbying Council on behalf of the community for Council to fund this project, currently estimated at $900,000, without public acknowledgement this is a wholly State owned and managed site.”

With the council still committed to a number of Crown Land projects, $1 million is the ‘conservatively’ calculated cost for the council each year, while some years reach over $5 million.

The backflip for Kooweerup Netball Club may not be the last, the submission said the council can no longer ‘afford to prioritise’ Crown Land against land directly owned by them – putting the further development of State-owned reserves in an ‘uncertain future’.

The council called for more involvement by the State on their own land and said that would best be done an injection of more State funding.

“Council is open to partnering with the State Government on solutions, however these will need to be funded at significantly higher levels than currently exist,” the submission said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action said they remain the main point of contact for reserve committees.

“The department is in regular contact with Cardinia Shire Council and values the additional financial support Cardinia Shire Council has provided to certain reserves managed by volunteer Committees of Management,” they said.

“DEECA liaises directly with Committees of Management on matters of funding and this remains the appropriate channel for future discussions.”