Parklands Community Preschool’s future in doubt as negotiations stall
Children, families and educators who are part of the Parklands Community Preschool are anxious about the preschool’s future after negotiations for a lease renewal have stalled.
The lease is up in January 2023, and Director Phoebe Wilby has expressed her concern that she is yet to receive an update from the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC).
“At the beginning of June we put together a submission, at HCCDC’s suggestion, outlining a business case for renewing the lease and outlining how it benefits the community,” she told Coast Community News.
“We were also asked to outline what sort of amount we could afford to pay connecting with our funding but we have heard nothing since.”
Ms Wilby had hoped to hear back “quite quickly”, with enrolments for the 2023 learning year on hold pending a response to the renewal application.
Liesl Tesch, Member for Gosford, called for a quick resolution, meeting with Preschool President, Adrian Sexton, and NSW Labor Leader, Chris Minns, earlier this month.
“Parklands Community Preschool is a not-for-profit community-run service in the Mount Penang Parklands and has served Kariong and the surrounding area for nearly 40 years,” she said.
“Its facility is leased from the NSW Government through the HCCDC. The fee-free service is one of only three community-based preschools left in the southern end of the Central Coast and has 96 children enrolled.”
Ms Tesch shared the concerns of the 17 educators employed by the service, many of whom have worked there for decades.
She believes HCCDC’s Place Vision, which outlines several key priorities for the future of the Parklands, could put the preschool at risk, with one of its priority actions listed as “optimising leases”, to be achieved through “review and (rationalisation of) leases where appropriate to streamline occupancy, encourage intensification of uses in key areas”.
Should the lease go to market, she continued, the provider may need to compete to retain the space, which may be untenable given its business model.
“It is outrageous that a preschool which has been an essential service to Kariong for over 40 years (could) be forced to relocate, close down, or pass on higher fees to parents already struggling with the rising cost of living,” she said.
In 2017, the Parklands Community Preschool’s lease was increased from one dollar per year to over $19,000.
In response, Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast Adam Crouch said HCCDC’s Place Vision supports education uses within a natural and heritage setting.
“The action in the Place Vision around rationalising leases is not about relocating tenants off site,” he said.
“It is focused on working with all tenants to combine and standardise leases where possible, and to provide clarity around long-term tenancy options.”
HCCDC said it would continue to work closely with the preschool to renew the lease “in line with appropriate processes.”
“As always, decisions about rent made by HCCDC for any new lease will be made considering matters beyond just financial ones – they also include the benefit to the community.”
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