Council snubs MP over club’s ‘ridiculous’ rent

HASTINGS MP Neale Burgess says he is outraged “at the incredibly harsh decision of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to increase rent tenfold for the local Hastings Club”.

Mr Burgess has joined other critics upset with the shire demanding the club pay “a ridiculous $42,000 per year, rising to more than $52,000 in year three, up from just $4000 currently”.

He says the council has refused to meet with him “to discuss this outrageous rent increase”.

Mr Burgess wants the shire to grant the club a 21-year lease with “a peppercorn rent”.

“Any rent charged above this amount is simply council taking money from Hastings sporting clubs.”

The club last month said it “cannot be a signatory” to the proposed lease as it is “a contradiction of the Gambling Act (2003)” (“Sports club to fight rent rise” The News 25/4/17).

“Is it the intention of [the shire] to knowingly contravene the [act]?” The Hastings Club president Peter Lewis stated in a letter to the shire property operations leader Greg Collins.

The shire’s property and strategy manager Yasmin Woods said “all legislation” had been taken into account when assessing the club’s [future] rent.

In her report to council’s Monday 27 March meeting Ms Woods said the club had been paying $4000 a year in rent since 1996, and if three-yearly reviews had been made the current rent would have been $30,250.

The club’s 2015/2016 annual report shows a net profit for the year of about $199,000 with its gaming room having an operating surplus of more than $930,000. Gaming revenue increased to $2.22 million in 2016 from $1.99m in 2015.

“The council should not be expected to offer a rental subsidy because the club has an obligation to expend gaming revenue of community services or activities,” Ms Woods stated.

Mr Burgess said The Hastings Club supports “vital grassroots sports, such as footy, cricket, netball and darts”.

“This dramatic and unfair rent increase was imposed without any meaningful consultation; with council simply telling the club this is what your rent will be from now on,” Mr Burgess said.

“The Tooradin Sports Club is very similar to The Hastings Club; it is located on Crown land, is not for profit, has poker machines and supports local sporting clubs. The City of Casey however recognises the important and unique role the Tooradin Sports Club plays in its local community, and therefore charges a peppercorn rent only.

“While Mornington Peninsula Shire claims it will return some of the funds to the Hastings area, it has admitted it will pocket the first $10,000; and there is no guarantee the remaining funds will find their way back into our community.”

First published in the Western Port News – 16 May 2017