Fishos Club's closure under scrutiny

ROCKDALE Council's call for expressions of interest in the former Brighton-Le-Sands Fishos Club, Kyeemagh, has sparked new accusations that it let the club go broke rather than negotiate a deal to keep it open.

Financial controllers Dean-Wilcocks Shepard were appointed to take control of the 50-year-old club in February by non-bank lender Carrington National after the club defaulted on a loan payment.

Carrington National provided a loan of approximately $750,000 to the club in 2010.

The valuable waterfront club site is owned by Rockdale Council and comprises 6300 square metres of land zoned for community use, meaning its uses can include community or environmental, recreational areas, or indoor and outdoor recreation. The call for expressions of interest will be followed by a short listing of applicants that must submit a fully costed tender to the council.

In light of the tender call, Carrington National chief executive Gino Marra accused the council of ignoring at least three proposals from clubs that would have kept Fishos afloat.

He said the council was well aware "a major NRL leagues club in the local area" had offered to take on the Fishos Club's debt, but the council refused to meet with him and the controllers about the offer. He said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from naming the club.

"We had a leagues club willing to pay out the loan, to hand the club back to the members and keep its doors open," Mr Marra said.

He said a merger between the two clubs would have been put to both sets of members.

Mr Marra said at least two other community clubs also contacted him about taking on the debt after the receivership became public.

"I wanted to meet with the [Rockdale Council] general manager and the mayor to tell them we had received numerous approaches from clubs," Mr Marra said.

But he claimed that both then mayor Bill Saravinovski and general manager Meredith Wallace refused to meet with him. According to Mr Marra he contacted the council by phone and in writing to request a meeting. "The council, by doing what it has done, has stripped the members of their ability to decide the future of the club," Mr Marra said.

But councillor Saravinovski said he had never heard of or met Mr Marra.

"I don't know who he is. He never had any appointments with me," he said.

He said the council, which was the landlord, stepped in and took possession of the club because it fell behind on its rent.

"To try and blame the council (for the closure) is absolute rubbish," he said. "We took possession of the property because everything was being sold off. We couldn't stand back and watch all our assets being sold."

Ms Wallace said the tender process was an opportunity for a fresh start on the site.

"Council believes it is in the community's best interests to run a transparent process to find a new operator or operators, for the site. The current tender provides an opportunity for all interested parties to respond," Ms Wallace said.

Mr Marra said Carrington National was still owed a "significant amount" of money. The controller was trying to sell 37 poker machine licences to recoup some of those losses.

What should the Fishos site be used for?