30 November 2015 Council refutes Frasers's claims regarding Deep Sea Fishing Club lease

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30 November 2015 Council refutes Frasers's claims regarding Deep Sea Fishing Club lease

​ It is sad that the future of the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club is looking bleak. However, this position has eventuated due to insolvency issues at the Club and despite all parties, including Council’s, best endeavours to see an agreed Deed of Company Arrangement (DoCA) implemented.


In a story on Prime7 news on Friday night, it was extremely disappointing to see Mr Andrew Fraser MP make the following outrageous claim with respect to Council, as Corporate Manager of the Coffs Coast State Park Trust:


“They have the opportunity and they have the authority to extend the lease so the $1.2M in debts that are there can be paid because we can then get an operator in there.”


Firstly, in July 2015 Council in its trustee capacity requested authorisation from the Minister should Council wish to extend the lease. The response advised that the Department of Primary Industries – Land was prepared to authorise Council as the trust manager to approve leases and that a conditional instrument of authority would be forthcoming. To date this has not been received, contrary to Mr Fraser’s assertion.


Nevertheless, the advice also clearly states:


“One key condition will be that unless inappropriate to do so, in all circumstances, the lessee must be selected through a competitive tender process.”


The need for a transparent competitive process as best practice in leasing crown land is understood. It also avoids ‘direct dealing’ in relation to a commercial lease, which is subject to guidelines issued by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Based on this advice Council, as Corporate Manager of the Trust, could not agree to a lease extension beyond its expiry in 2021.


Secondly, the DoCA was never able to satisfy all the creditors’ debts.  It proposed a compromised settlement where much of the creditors’ debt would need to be written-off. Unsecured creditors would receive around one cent in the dollar.


The future of the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club is now a matter for the Administrator and the creditors. However, Council in its trustee role, within the constraints of the Crown Lands Act, remains focused on ensuring that the current and future use of the precinct continues an emphasis on recreational fishing.


Any new lease of the site determined through a future Expression of Interest process will still require the approval of the Minister for Crown Lands.