by Graham Broadhead
KAREN Miller doesn't want to see Ballina Shire Council put a cash grab in front of youth development.
Ms Miller is the public officer for the Ballina-based Training Ship (TS) Lismore Australian Navy Cadets unit.
She is disappointed the council's commercial services committee will on Wednesday consider selling the Endeavour Cl industrial waterfront land the unit's headquarters has been sited on since 1988, or making the cadets pay market rent after years of paying a nominal rent.
The market value of the land is reported to be $926,000, while the current market rental value is more than $45,000 - and that's just money the cadet unit, which does not receive funding from the Australian Defence Force, doesn't have.
She said the sale of the land could put the unit's future in doubt.
This proposal comes at a time when Alstonville residents are up in arms about youth causing trouble in the town, and are threatening vigilante action due to a lack of police.
Ms Miller said the cadet unit, established in Lismore in the early 1980s, taught youth things like discipline, life skills and respect for others along with naval skills, and many of the unit's members have gone on to serve in the Australian Defence Force.
"I don't want council to be putting the value of the land in front of the opportunity we provide for local youth to develop themselves,” Ms Miller said.
"You can't put a value on that.”
She said the unit currently had 30 cadets who meet each Saturday, and the unit has to raise $18,000 each year just to stay afloat.
The cadet unit, with support from other organisations, funded the buildings on the land, which is set up like a military base with parade ground, guard house, teaching rooms, kitchen and storage sheds for the unit's boats.
The cadets are also involved in the local community, performing the flag-raising ceremony at the council's own Australia Day celebrations, officiating at commemorative services throughout the year and have also regularly entered a team in the Ballina Shire Relay for Life raising money for the Cancer Council.
The council staff report the matter came up because of "councillors expressing concerns over the value of this land and the community benefit derived.”
At last December's finance meeting, it was reported that the value of the land represented a "significant subsidy to a relatively small group”.
The staff recommendation at this week's commercial services meeting is to approve a three-year lease to the unit at a nominal rent.
The recommendation also adds the new lease is to include an allowance for the facilities to be shared with other like-minded community groups.