Port Macquarie may yet again host the State Touch Football cups after councillors voted to go-ahead with the purchase of the Tuffins Lane sports precinct.
In a close and confidential vote held during Thursday's (October 20) ordinary meeting in Laurieton, council agreed 5-4 to buy land around the perenially waterlogged playing fields.
St Agnes Parish has owned the fields since 2016 when the late Father Leo Donnelly stepped in to prevent them being sold to developers. His wish was to keep them in the community's hands.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Mayor Peta Pinson said she supported the purchase of the land for the same reason.
"To be able to bring it into chamber yesterday and to get a positive [result] on behalf of our community is very exicting," she said.
"It belongs in the community's hands and the community will own it."
Cr Nik Lipovac has had a long association with the sporting groups using the fields and also welcomed the chance to return the land to the community.
"I was president of Hastings Senior Cricket when the sports precinct was suddenly sold to a developer and then bought by the church as a generous donation back to the community," he said.
"Six years later and I'm delighted I've had the opportunity as a councillor to vote in favour of starting the process of having the fields placed under the management of council."
Councillors resolved in May 2022 to enter into negotiations for the potential purchase of the land. Chief Executive Officer Dr Clare Allen prepared the report on which councillors based their vote.
Crs Pinson, Lipovac, Adam Roberts, Danielle Maltman and Josh Slade voted in favour of the purchase. Crs Griffiths, Intemann, Sheppard and Edwards voted against.
Dr Allen will now proceed with negotiations to purchase Lots 132, 103, 104 and 203 in DP 754434, and Lot 102 in DP 1181696 - being the Tuffins Lane sports precinct.
Cr Pinson said that council had become overwhelmed with the growth and diversity of sport in Port Macquarie.
"Infrastructure is not keeping pace with growth. This field is of strategic importance because we do not have fields of the sizes needed to accommodate the senior and junior state [touch football] cups.
When purchasing the land in 2016, Fr Donnelly said "the commercial reality of the value of the land [needed] to be balanced by the extraordinary economic benefits that events like the NSW Touch State Cup and the Junior State Cup bring to our community."
When the NSW Touch Association confirmed in September that it was moving the 2023 Junior Cup to Dubbo because of drainage issues at Tuffins Lane, it dealt Port Macquarie a $13 million economic body blow.
"Up until this point we have been unable to do anything to improve the sporting field because it hasn't been in council's ownership," Cr Pinson said.
"The purchase of the Tuffins Lane sporting precinct should send a very clear message to NSW Touch that council is serious about the hosting rights, now and into the future."
Cr Lipovac said sporting clubs are crying out for more venues and that "although there a plans in place to develop new amenities across the region, this venue will help fill the current shortfall and provide for our booming population.
"On the flipside, council will have to invest in upgrading the facility to ensure its longevity and usefulness".
The tenders for the senior and junior state cups come up later this year and it is hoped the purchase will see NSW Touch return to the Hastings.
The expected cost of the land is currently confidential.
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