Holiday Parks Info. What are PSC Hiding?

PROGRESS WITH TRRA GIPA REQUEST –

PORT STEPHENS CARAVAN PARK AUDIT

 In September 2011 TRRA lodged a request with the Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) and Port Stephens Council for access to a copy of an Audit of Council’s management and finances associated with its holiday businesses.  This Audit was commissioned by the LPMA.  We also requested copies of all other documents relating to Council’s response to the Audit.

PS Council objected to the release of these documents on the grounds of “commercial in confidence” and asked for LPMA to undertake an Internal Review of the matter.  In November 2011 LPMA advised TRRA of the result of its Review which was to disclose all of the six relevant documents.

PS Council subsequently requested a further Review by the Office of the Information Commissioner.  A recent inquiry revealed that The OIC will not start on this file for about 6 weeks. Meanwhile, the latest PS Integrated Strategic Plan 2012/2021 proposes further capital expenditures on Caravan Parks of $8.2 million and $500,000 on Samurai Resort.  The last two Integrated Strategic Plans admitted that the Holiday Parks needed further expenditure to get their occupancy rates up to 50-55 %.

TRRA has called for Council to table any business plans which justify such investments  given the substantial  losses of the Holiday Parks reported in PS Council’s Annual Financial Statements (see table below).

PORT STEPHENS COUNCIL ANNUAL FINANCIAL   STATEMENTS

Extract from Income Statements – Other   Business Activities – Holiday Parks *

Financial   Year

Deficit   after Tax

$

Subsidy   from Council

$

2008/9

(2,697,000)

3,460,000

2009/10

(1,423,000)

1,898,000

2010/11

(502,000)

1,578,000

*Sources   :  PSC Annual Report July 2010/June   2011, p. 162PSC Annual Report July   2009/June 2010, p. 178

 

Under the leasing arrangements for the Crown Lands on which the caravan parks are located, the Council is obliged to pay a portion of its revenue to the State and to quarantine any profits to be expended on maintenance or improvements on the caravan parks or other Crown Reserves.  TRRA believes that there is an urgent need to up-grade many of our Crown Reserves such as the Shoal Bay foreshore and that ratepayers should have access to information on the revenue and profitability of the caravan parks and also on where any profits have been expended.  We would expect that such information would have been generated in the LPMA Audit.

Our concerns have been elevated by views expressed by Councillors over recent years that the park businesses were worthwhile contributors to Council’s overall financial position and by a July 2011 letter from Council’s Group Manager Corporate Service’s advising that  “the five holiday park properties in the last financial year contributed net $1.9 million to Council’s revenue, in addition to $254,500 to the Office of State Revenue. The income from the Holiday Parks therefore lessens the impact that might otherwise be borne by ratepayers”.  This statement is in contradiction to the results reported in the Annual Financial Statements.

TRRA has now made a submission to the Office of the Information Commissioner drawing attention to these apparent anomalies and challenging Council’s reasons for opposing release of the documents.

For those wishing to read the full submission click: HERE.

Geoff Washington

Chairman TRRA, 22 May 2012

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