Harnessing people-power to manage facilities

An innovative partnership between Lake Macquarie City Council and the community is helping to deliver major upgrades to local community and sporting infrastructure.

Lake Macquarie City Council’s unique delegated authority model has enabled hundreds of volunteer facility managers to have a greater say in the day-to-day management and future of more than 100 Council-owned facilities.

In addition to encouraging civic participation and fostering local social capital, the delegated authority model allows managers to access a unique funding stream, which they can use to carry out improvements to their facility.

Under the model, hire fees raised at the facility are held in a dedicated account and, as they accumulate, can be used for upgrades.

Facilities with large numbers of users have accumulated upwards of $100,000 through the model, allowing them to undertake significant works.

Other facilities have been able to fund smaller improvement projects like bin enclosures and storage extensions or have used their funds to top-up larger grant-funded initiatives or projects already earmarked for replacement by Council.

Charlestown Netball Association recently co-funded a major upgrade project at the Jack Stewart Netball Courts that included construction of two new asphalt courts and upgrades to their amenities building, using hire fees collected from their facility, and the managers of Balcomb Field were able to supplement grant funding to help revamp their dressing sheds at Dudley.

The delegated authority model has financial benefits for users, but it also delivers significant savings for Council.

Lake Macquarie City Council estimates that local volunteers contribute 50,000 hours a year to the management of its facilities, equating to an annual saving of about $1.8 million.

Community and Recreation Development Coordinator, Andrew Bryant, said allowing groups to invest in the facilities they use creates a real sense of empowerment in the community.

“Our volunteers have a wealth of enthusiasm and ideas to offer, and knowing they can contribute to raising funds, developing project concepts and driving the improvements themselves means those who know the facility well get to have a big say in how it’s managed,” Mr Bryant said.

“The benefits of partnering with the community reaches far beyond monetary values – it gives our residents a sense of ownership, control and pride in their local communities.”