Those operating a tourist-related business in Brunswick Heads be warned: it’s unlikely local MP Don Page (Nationals) will defend your activity from being taken over by the NSW government-run North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP).
Last week, The Echo reported that Brunswick Buccaneer boat hire operator Ilan Schnitzler is facing eviction by NCHP.
But Mr Page is refusing to intervene, raising the question: how accountable is NCHP and its manager Jim Bolger to elected politicians?
Emails obtained by The Echo show that despite having authority over Banner Park and the waterways opposite the pub where the boats are located, Crown Lands has palmed responsibility to NCHP. And while Crown Lands, under deputy premier Andrew Stoner (Nationals), did not reply to Echo questions, Mr Page did.
He told The Echo, ‘I am advised that the [Brunswick Buccaneer’s] licence had expired some time ago.’
Terminated vs expired
However, Mr Schnitzler’s solicitor, Claire Lovejoy told The Echo the licence ‘never expired and was instead terminated’.
‘There is a clear difference between “expired” and “wrongfully terminated”,’ she said.
Mr Page then suggested that NCHP’s plan of management (POM) for the surrounding foreshore – now on public exhibition – could be an avenue for the operator to lobby his cause.
‘The operator, like all other interested parties, is able to make a submission as to the most appropriate future use for the site,’ he said. ‘Any future licence will be granted through a competitive tender process.’
While The Echo is unaware of other ‘interested parties’ wanting to hire boats in that location, kayak hire is now available at the NCHP’s Terrace Reserve Holiday Park, located a couple of hundred metres up the creek.
The surprise announcement that Mr Schnitzler’s 30-year business would now be subject to a tender process comes without warning and is not even mentioned in NCHP’s plans of management.
And despite no mention of The Brunswick Buccaneer either, there are concrete walkways and park extensions earmarked for the immediate area in the plan of management.
Conflict of interest
While this appears to be ‘making it up as you go along’ governance, another unanswered question is whether the state government has a conflict of interest.
When asked whether it was a conflict of interest to operate a commercial venture while having the power to issue licences for a similar private business close by, Mr Page said, ‘If they are hiring kayaks,’ he said, ‘then whether there is a commercial conflict of interest – or not – is a legal matter that would require appropriate legal advice. I am therefore not able to answer your question on conflict of interest.’
n Disclosure: Mr Schnitzler’s solicitor is a relative of the reporter