Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:21): My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, what action are you and your department undertaking to support the Blackwood recreation centre in their lease negotiations with the City of Mitcham?
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (15:21): I thank the member for the question. I do actually have some information about this issue, which I understand has certainly had some social media attention in recent weeks, and I have had some correspondence as well.
Just for members' interest, the Blackwood Community Recreation Centre was constructed on the Blackwood High School site, which I guess is the key relevance to why the education department is involved. It was constructed by the City of Mitcham, funded by council, the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing, the local community centre and other contributors from the local community. The contribution the Department for Education made was in providing the land.
The centre is a joint use facility. A portion is available for use by the school during school hours; indeed, otherwise it is a centre for the community. The community and the school have separate access points into the building. The structure of the way it works at the moment is that the department leases the centre to the City of Mitcham, which in turn subleases it to the Blackwood Community Recreation Association, which I understand is the group on whose behalf the member asks the question. That recreation association is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the centre.
The agreement commenced in 2004. It was a 15-year agreement, expiring in February 2019, and there were three further 15-year options to renew all based on the same terms and conditions as the original agreement and, having expired in February 2019, those options hadn't as yet been exercised is my understanding.
The department's responsibility has been by contributing towards the operating costs, to reflect that there obviously is a certain level of use by Blackwood High School. The council has been responsible for structural and capital maintenance of the centre, and the recreation association has been responsible for breakdown and preventative maintenance.
In 2019, there was a request from council that the department agree to amend the lease agreement and increase the contribution by the department to the costs of the centre. The council and the recreation association at that time identified that they thought the department should take on a higher level of responsibility.
The school is probably the single largest user, but I have asked for some exploration of the usage by the school, as opposed to the community, because I understand that at a recent meeting the council have determined that they would like to make an annual payment to the BCRA of $24,000, indexed to CPI for 15 years, and that would see them terminating their existing sublease.
The resolution was made subject to the execution of the lease between the department and the BCRA for the use of the centre. At this time, my understanding is that the department hasn't been formally notified by council of that decision, although obviously information has been available. I think the member has written to us and there has been social media, as I said.
We are unclear as to what the residents' association's position is in relation to the decision council has made, whether they will request further discussions with council to seek a change in position. I guess in the interim the existing lease arrangements continue, and there will be no interruption to the use of the facility by the school or the local community. When the council makes their formal approach with a proposition, the department and the government will give due consideration to that approach in the best interests of the taxpayers of South Australia and students, in this case, at Blackwood High School.