Eden Marine Discovery Centre, cafes face eviction in 28 days

Some of the Eden harbourside buildings that are affected by the notification from Crown Lands.
Some of the Eden harbourside buildings that are affected by the notification from Crown Lands.

Cafes, offices and the Marine Discovery Centre at Eden's wharf side face eviction in 28 days after a notification from Lynne Sheridan, Executive General (Regional) of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Crown Lands.

The board of the Marine Discovery Centre which holds the lease for the cafes and offices, said it had been served with a notice of breach of lease and notice to repair lease for the wharf building in Eden.

The notice has "come completely out of left field" chair of the board of the Marine Discovery Centre Paul Whittock said.

The board said its legal advisors tried unsuccessfully to discuss the matter with Member for Bega Andrew Constance last week but "remain hopeful of a meeting as soon as possible".

Sub-tenants within the building have been notified of this breach and advised that the board is seeking legal advice about the appointment of liquidators as the cost of full rectification is beyond its financial means.

Sub-tenants include cafes, fish and chip shops, Drift bar and restaurant, Eden Water Police and the Australian Border Force.

The building is known to be a problem through its age and non-compliance with current day standards with the current lease only running until November 2022 but the Marine Discovery Centre decided to take on the lease in 2007.

Stan Soroka, who was chair of the board for several recent years, said anyone who knew the history of the building knew it had seen better days. But he said all fire safety issues were immediately addressed at the time, and the building was inspected annually to ensure compliance.

"As time ticked on, and knowing the lease would expire in 2022, we spent more and more money on building maintenance to the detriment of our operations. Insurance costs skyrocketed, with an annual premium of over $80,000. From the outset, we pursued a future plan from Crown Lands to no avail and we are shocked and disappointed that this is the outcome", Mr Soroka said.

A number of those close to the situation are understood to be both frustrated and angry over the lack of response by politicians and government departments, despite continued requests to discuss future plans and the lease arrangements.

In August Crown Lands said a financial analysis of potential options for the revitalisation of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre site was underway.

"The team has commenced preliminary discussions with the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre. The potential redevelopment of this mixed-use zone site is proposed to include hospitality, retail and commercial spaces to provide a link between the Welcome Centre, the Port and the greater Eden township and serve locals and visitors to the region," Crown Lands said.

Not long afterwards the Marine discovery Centre asked for a meeting with Crown Lands who carried out a building report while they were there.

The next thing the board saw was the receipt of the notice of breach of lease and notice to repair.

Jenny Robb, a former CEO of the Marine Discovery Centre said more and more money had to be thrown at maintenance of the buildings,

"They kept talking to Crown Lands asking if they were going to pull it down. I believe the board has done everything to ensure safety while trying to hold its own and while waiting for external forces to make a decision," Ms Robb said.

There is considerable concern for the businesses involved who have badly impacted by the bushfires and the COVID-19. For this reason, the board has offered significant rent relief throughout the year, leaving the Marine Discovery Centre's financial situation in an even more dire situation.

Mr Whittock they had been doing all they could to ensure tenants could continue to trade when they were able.

"Our greatest concerns are for our own staff, as well as the staff and business owners in the building. This is a blow that the community of Eden cannot withstand and we hope that our political representatives can rally together to help us get back on our feet, and work with us to ensure our long-term viability," he said.