Ballina seagulls mascot. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Ballina seagulls mascot. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star

Council to pursue $15,000 debt from rugby club

Ballina Shire Council has decided to negotiate with a local rugby club to enter a payment plan for a debt of more than $15,000.

Council's financial committee decided on Wednesday to mandate general manager Paul Hickey to negotiate directly with the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club.

The club currently owes council a total of $15,579.70, which includes water consumption and access charges of $2,637.44, wastewater consumption and access charges of $7,530.15, rates of $5,319.87, and interest of $92.24.

"The amounts relate to charges raised since July 2019, at which time the assessment was paid up to date," council documents stated.

Representatives of the Rugby League Club requested that Council approve a write-off of the rates and charges outstanding, on the grounds of financial hardship.

The club owned slot machines, which were sold, plus the licence to operate them. The commercial part of the club still owns a liquor licence.

While the for-profit part of the club is still ongoing, the sports club has created a not-for-profit structure, with both legal structures currently running in parallel.

Mark Turner, Seagulls Rugby League Club's current treasurer, spoke to councillors regarding the matter.

Mr Turner explained he became the treasurer of the club after it was incorporated in December 2020.

"In December 2019 it was decided to close the club down due to severe financial troubles," he said.

"From then, we should have closed the club.

"Now we have set up a not-for-profit entity that is up an running, we started receiving sponsorships for the next 12 months but we still have these debts."

 

Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club
Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club

 

Mr Turner said it has ben his job to make sense of a "pile of bills and paperwork" left by the previous club administration.

"A lot of time is going into reconstruct 18 months worth of bills, the main being council rates," he said.

"We should have been a not-for-profit sporting club 12 months ago, we should have applied for a community donations."

According to documents debated by councillors, the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club emailed council on November 2020, requesting a write off the outstanding rates and charges

of the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Football Club Ltd.

Council met with club representatives on December 2020, including representatives from the junior and senior clubs.

During the meeting, it was agreed that the club would provide a more detailed outline of what had led to their financial circumstances, together with detailed and current financial information of their financial position.

Council documents stated that, on January 2021, the club submitted a copy of the minutes from the Ballina Seagulls AGM December 2019, a copy of a bank overdraft statement for

October 2020 and November 2020 and a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation as an association, along with minutes of the inaugural meeting as an Incorporated Association.

A response from the club received in February provided details on the financial position of

the Club, the impact of COVID-19 "and refers to the Club now operating with a clubhouse, not a licensed venue".

The council's committee also agreed to write-off interest charges for $92.24.

The decision was taken on a divided vote, with councillors David Wright, Sharon Parry, Stephen McCarthy, Nathan Willis, Sharon Cadwallader and Ben Smith in favour, councillors Phillip Meehan, Eoin Johnston and Keith Williams against it, and Cr Jeff Johnson absent from the meeting.