A cash-strapped Wollongong City Council will turn to private enterprise to rebuild the North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club after the club’s bid for state government funding was rejected.
The council is preparing to put to tender a project to demolish the existing clubhouse and build a replacement, which would allow commercial operations on the site in return for the inclusion of surf club accommodation and facilities.
The city council did a similar deal a decade ago with the demolition of the Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club and its inclusion in the City Beach Function Centre complex.
Under that arrangement, the land and building are owned by Wollongong City Council, but the complex was built by Tass and Michael Kollaras's company TMK@CityBeach in a public-private partnership whereby the City Beach Function Centre and adjacent restaurant operate alongside the surf club.
The ailing North Wollongong Beach structure has been a bane in the lives of club members since the older section of the building, established in 1938, was revealed to be riddled with concrete cancer.
Load-bearing posts installed about five years ago have kept the building safe, but have proved a nuisance for club members forced to navigate around them in the patrol room.
While club members have been heavily involved in the negotiation process with the council, North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club building committee chairman Chris Clayton said putting the project out to tender for private companies wasn't members' first option.
In an attempt to avoid sharing the building, the club recently applied for $10.3 million under the Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, which has $100 million on offer, courtesy of the 99-year lease of Port Kembla port.
However, the application was unsuccessful because it was deemed not to meet the fund's criteria.
"I believed if we were successful in obtaining $10.3 million, North Wollongong surf club would then have been able to negotiate with council to be involved in the commercial component instead of an investor," Mr Clayton said.
The council, which has already flagged the possibility of rate rises or asset sales to help it balance its budget, was never in a position to build a new surf club on its own.
The council has already invested millions of dollars, with the help of government grants, in the Blue Mile waterfront development and the North Beach Bathers' Pavilion restoration. A council spokeswoman said footing designs and a coastal engineering report for the new surf club building were currently before the organisation's Crown Lands Division.
"Any expressions of interest or tender for works will be carried out by the Crown Lands Division following the assessment of the coastal hazard engineering report," the spokeswoman said.