BY SATHSARA RADALIYAGODA AND TOMMY BOUTROS
Residents of Sydney’s Eastern Beaches fear that the iconic Bondi Pavilion is under threat from development proposals put forward by council that threaten to privatise the landmark building.
Stage one of Waverley Council’s plans to repair and renew Bondi Pavilion with new art museums, music studios and the creation of a community tenancy area are set to commence early next year, if approved.
In the wake of “Stage One” of the development process, Mayor Sally Betts has sparked controversy as a report issued last week revealed she breached the council code of conduct in a debate about the developments.
The finding relates to Ms Betts prematurely ending a council meeting after failing to count Liberal Councillor Joy Clayton’s vote at the meeting, as outlined in an internal report compiled by O’Connor Marsden & Associates.
Liberal Councillor Joy Clayton refused to comment on the investigation surrounding Sally Betts and the privatisation of Bondi Pavilion, leaving all to be addressed in court. Her previous alignment with community protests alludes to internal unrest.
A spokesperson for Waverley Council said that no further information about the breach could be disclosed.
“The Waverley Council Code of Conduct and the Code of Conduct Procedure requires Council to keep code of conduct matters and the management of complaints confidential.”
Greens MP David Shoebridge has been outspoken about the issues surrounding Waverley Council and said that they have not been sincere in their efforts to renovate Bondi Pavilion.
“If any local council or any level of government wants to bring the community with them, they have to be open with the community and share any relevant information with them,” he said.
Mr Shoebridge also said that growing concerns about privatisation have prompted a widespread community response.
“This is part of the fight for Sydney’s soul to stop it being privatised. Think about all the extraordinary places in Sydney looking over the harbour…every other one has been taken over by corporate interests. This is quite literally for Bondi [drawing] a line in the sand. We are going to hold this for the community,” he said.
Despite strong opposition towards the reconstruction of Bondi Pavilion, including a heavy social media campaign which includes 4,365 people who are members of the Save Bondi Pavilion Facebook Page, the council is still forging on with the proposal.
Kilty O’Brien, the Convenor of Save Bondi Pavilion, believes the centre does need an upgrade but not a “commercial takeover.” She argues that Bondi Pavilion’s historical significance as a community and cultural centre should be honoured.
Ms O’Brien shares sentiments with MP Shoebridge, saying, “The whole process to upgrade Bondi Pavilion has been driven by Sally Betts, who has consistently used her casting vote as Mayor to push through this inappropriate and deeply unpopular plans”
“It has been shrouded in secrecy and misinformation. The community have been clear that they do not want our community centre commercialised,” she said.
According to the Waverley Council website construction of Stage 1 is expected to take about 12 months.
A Council spokesperson said “it is important to note Council is not privatising Bondi Pavilion,” stating the “iconic, historical building” is being further developed as a community facility.
The exhibition, which showcases the proposed renovations, will be publicly available until the 24th of May, the same day the Save Bondi Pavilion Campaign will be protesting, as they fight for the iconic Sydney facility.
Ms O’Brien believes the Mayor’s actions highlight she should not be in a position of power.
“This was a clear and serious breach of the requirements of a Mayor, and we call on Mayor Betts to admit her error of judgement and immediately resign,” she said.