Moving forward with new positions for the Community Centre, key projects and changes to rents.
Nimbin Community Centre owns and manages the community centre (8 buildings on 2 acres of heritage listed grounds), Birth & Beyond and Aquarius Park. Faced with increasing expenses and the care of old buildings, we have spent the past year looking at ways to deal with this into the future. Rents from tenants, combined with grant funding, have kept everything afloat for over 25 years. While we have funds set aside for things like major roof repairs there is not enough to cover our escalating costs and needs into the future. Consequently, we have spent a challenging year looking at how we can do things differently. It's been a rough ride. We engaged a business consultant through the Federal government's entrepreneurship program who sewed seeds for thought and pointed us in a new direction. We'd like to share some of the results of that process with you by outlining the changes we're implementing.
Position Vacant - Property Manager
A major change will be a greater emphasis on property management. The role of property manager is currently being advertised at 21 hours a week. We wish it were full-time. The role involves care of our buildings alongside looking after our grounds and serving as a first point of contact for tenants and those interested in using facilities and services that we house. At the same time, we are moving out of the office we have occupied for 25 years. We have looked at this before but have always resisted as we enjoy having main street frontage and being a valuable point of contact for locals and visitors. We are moving our office into another, less prominent space and will share with Jungle Patrol into the future. Thank you to them for agreeing to our request. Our current office facing Cullen Street will be advertised for rent once we have moved, probably later this year as we need to fit out our new space to meet the requirements of ourselves and Jungle Patrol.
Position Vacant - Digital Communications Manager
In addition, we are moving much of our operation into a digital environment. We are currently advertising for a digital communications manager, a position that will also dedicate a few hours a week to supporting our local Chamber of Commerce meet their digital needs. In order for this to be effective we have worked extensively on our website over the past year and hope to boost our social media presence into the future. We will continue to have a bookkeeper, and a cleaner for the spaces we hire out for the many groups in our community, but many roles carried out by staff in the past will be managed on a voluntary level by the management committee. To this end we are looking to young, enthusiastic community members to join our committee with a view to the aged committee members stepping down at our AGM in November. We currently have at least 2 and maybe 4 young people and are on the hunt for more.
A major challenge for us into the future will be the care and development of Aquarius Park. Once the Rainbow Road walking track is finished Aquarius Park will become a key feature of the track with maintenance and enhancement becoming our responsibility. While we have no regrets about the decision we made to purchase this land, in partnership with many other community organisations and individuals, it does present challenges. We have formed a Landcare group and we hope to attract support through Landcare initiatives and local community groups taking on specific areas. It will undoubtedly develop into a beautiful and treasured community resource - peaceful, away from the madding crowd. We recently gave Council access to the Sibley St end of this property so they can conduct investigations into connecting the Alternative Way footpath to Sibley Street footpath, something the community has been pushing for.
Beyond the impacts of the pandemic and local bushfires on us, we are also facing the challenges presented by climate change. We have more and more tenants with air conditioners increasing our energy requirements. We are facing many roof replacements in coming years as leaks and rust become more evident. We have installed water tanks but would love more. We have undertaken major upgrades to protect against the impacts of fire. All of these things come at a cost. Around 14% of our rental income goes to insurance companies. 7% goes to Council rates and charges. Almost 60% goes to salaries. This does not leave much for the costs of maintain extensive grounds and buildings not to mention improvements. Their current condition is somewhat indicative of this. There are so many things we would love to do but can't. However, maintenance of our assets into the future is of critical importance and is to become our priority.
Finally, we have had to look closely at the rents we charge. This is always very hard and vexed as no tenant wants to pay higher rent, but we have to meet our increasing costs. For years we had leases tied to the CPI. With a CPI around 2-3% this was not meeting our increasing needs. The CPI is 7% for this coming year but many tenants have leases that only allow for a maximum 5% increase, no matter the CPI. We are gradually introducing new leases that will allow for annual increases in rent up to 10%. Hopefully inflation will continue to drop and increases of this nature will never be necessary, but we need to plan for the future.
Into the future
As you can imagine, changes of this nature have involved hours and days of meetings by a truly committed group of volunteers, all of whom have strong roots in our community and understand the pressures everyone is under. Our priority will always be to support community, but we also have valued commercial tenants. These tenants pay higher rents but even they have limits. In looking to outside funding sources beyond grants, which are rarely available to cover wage costs or necessities like insurance and maintenance, we have some enthusiastic event organisers who would like to help us raise funds. This may become a major focus into the future. We are also exploring other fundraising opportunities and, as a not-for-profit organisation, any benefits will flow to community.
During this transitional period we would like to acknowledge the incredible work of everyone involved in elements of our organisation, but particularly those who give their time free of charge or at significantly reduced rates. Many of the groups we house also rely on this volunteer input, support that is critical to the future of valuable community owned resources and the services they provide. Volunteers are arguably the backbone of our community and we acknowledge and honour you.