LOCKED OUT: Club members return serve on lease deal
AGE shall not weary them, but a 10-year lease is likely to, according to members of the Minnie Water Tennis Club.
Unable to reach an agreement on a new lease arrangement with Clarence Valley Council, Minnie Water Tennis Club members say they have been locked out of its clubhouse and courts for almost three weeks and they want their access back.
After the Minnie Water Tennis Club's recent separation from the Wooli half of the club, council is proposing the club go onto a 10-year lease, which the club thinks is unsustainable.
Treasurer Judy Gibson said the new terms of a lease council is proposing don't suit the club's structure.
"We were sent a copy of the lease agreement and we went through it and as a club we decided we couldn't afford it. The main problem was it was a 10-year lease," she said.
"Our youngest player is 55 and then we start at about mid-60s to mid-70s, there is also an 86-year-old. We couldn't take on a 10-year agreement."
The new lease, which includes rent, bin delivery and removal, bin availability charge per annum, bin collection per annum and a portion of the council's building insurance, equal just over $950 per year.
On top of this, the club would need to pay $650 insurance to Tennis Australia to stay insured.
"We have nine local people and they are charged $30 a year. We have 11 people who come here on holidays and have caravans in the Wooli Caravan Park or a house in Wooli, we charge them $15 a year," Mrs Gibson said.
Before the locks were changed on the clubhouse, the tennis club looked after the courts to ensure they were kept in good condition.
"The club has done all the maintenance at no cost to council. The last three years we've spent $2396.95 on maintenance down there, we keep it in good condition," she said.
"They put the lease agreement on the door at the shop, so it was advertised throughout Minnie Water, no one took it up and we realised we couldn't afford it. That means the only other people who could do it is the caravan park and they're not going to do it for nothing.
"They've shot themselves in the foot because we were doing all the maintenance at no cost to them."
In December of 1985 the tennis club had its first official meeting, and the planning of the clubhouse began a few months later. Beryl May, who has been a member of the club since 1985, said a lot has changed since the club's beginning.
"We had 40-odd members back then, all families. We used to play all day, we'd sit outside under the trees and we'd go home and have lunch and come back to play more. It's all changed," she said.
Judy added that they had tried to find more members but they'd had no luck.
Clarence Valley Council works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said no-one had been locked out of the tennis courts, but new measures had been put into place to manage the facilities.
These measures, he said, were initially triggered by a request from Minnie Water users that they no longer wanted to complete the maintenance of the Wooli tennis courts.
"A new Wooli Tennis Club is now up and running and we would like to see the same happen at Minnie Water, but we need to reach a resolution over the management of the facility," he said.
"The Minnie Water users believe the annual fee of about $515 for the lease of the land is too high and council should waive most of the charges. However, these fees are not set by council.
"The tennis club is on Crown Land and that fee is set by the Crown. Council cannot waive it."
Mr Anderson said that until an agreement is in place with the tennis club, keys to the courts and clubhouse will be held by the caravan park manager and people are free to hire the facilities from there.
"The locks were changed so the caravan park managers could stop any unauthorised entry to the courts, but there is no intention to lock anyone out," he said.
"We want these courts to be used and for the tennis club to be successful.
"That's largely what this process is about - to make sure the management of the courts has the financial and human resources to last years into the future."
If the Minnie Water Tennis Club are unable to solve the issue, they said they would forced to fold the club.