Leases on Lake Macquarie community groups and facilities unfair says battler

ELEEBANA resident and Lake Macquarie Rowing Club leaseholder Gary Freeman is on a crusade to stop what he believes is financial discrimination against some Lake Macquarie community groups and facilities.

In the next few weeks, Mr Freeman will mail a strongly worded letter to 49 groups, urging them to reject heightened fees determined by Lake Macquarie City Council's lease equity review, passed in November.

He said the council's method for deciding which groups would come under the new model was "discriminatory".

He gave the example of the Warners Bay Community Garden at Bunya Park, Eleebana, which did not require a lease. In his letter, which he showed The Star, Mr Freeman stated "free access for community gardens cannot be justified when other equally valuable volunteer services are subjected to a lease fee".

Lake Macquarie City Council community planning manager John Ferguson said there were more than 100 cases where a lease was not applicable, such as open spaces and sports fields.

"These types of facilities are typically delegated to an incorporation, which manages the facility," Mr Ferguson said.

He said the 49 groups and facilities dealt rent hikes last year required insurance and maintenance to their structures - not just land rates.

However, Mr Freeman said he was not satisfied with this answer.

"What's the basis of exempting some [facilities] and charging others based on their structures," he asked.

Mr Freeman said there were some clubs that were in financial distress and should be allowed to claim a lease exemption.

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