26 June 2023

Kiama Council one step closer to selling aged care centre to pay off debts

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Aerial view of Blue Haven Bonaira

Kiama Council is one step closer to selling the Blue Haven Bonaira aged care complex. Photos: Kiama Council.

After 40 years of providing aged care services, Kiama Council has cleared the way to sell Blue Haven Bonaira in a bid to raise much-needed funds.

At council’s meeting last week, councillors voted to reclassify the land on which Blue Haven sits from community to operational land, which will allow the sale of the centre.

The site on Bonaira Street includes the 134-bed residential aged care facility, 59 independent living units, Matterson Hall, Barroul House cafe, chapel, gym and hair salon and the administration offices for Blue Haven Home Care Services and Transport.

Mayor Neil Reilly said it was a difficult but important decision for council to make.

“The divestment of Blue Haven Bonaira is not something any of the elected councillors have taken lightly,” he said.

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“We have read hundreds of reports and gone over the finances around this many times since we came to office in January 2022.

“It’s been a tough choice but it’s the right one if we are to pursue our goal of a sustainable future for Kiama Council and our community.

“Council is committed to continuing Blue Haven’s high standards of aged care as we move through the divestment process for Blue Haven Bonaira.”

Council has been reconsidering its role as the largest remaining local government owner-operator of an aged care business in Australia and has been exploring options for Blue Haven since May 2022.

Kiama Mayor Neill Reilly

Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly said the sale was a difficult but important decision for council.

It said the cost blowout from the build of Blue Haven Bonaira and ongoing operational losses at Blue Haven have had severe negative effects on council’s budget. Council has previously reported that Blue Haven was running at a loss of about $3.5 million per annum.

“As well as this, supporting Blue Haven at its current size, while continuing to fund our current high level of Council services to the rest of the community, looks increasingly untenable,” council said.

“The complexity of the aged care sector due to new reforms and reporting requirements introduced since the Aged Care Commission, plus issues caused by the ongoing pandemic, such as high staff turnover, means council is struggling to provide the funds and resources to run Blue Haven, which poses a significant risk to council’s liquidity and solvency.”

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Now that council has agreed to reclassify the land, it will put out an expression of interest to participate in the open tender to purchase Blue Haven Bonaira.

Council has already stipulated that any sale must be to an approved aged care provider.

Meanwhile, at Monday’s (19 June) meeting councillors also endorsed an increase in their fees for the 2023-24 financial year.

The Local Government Remuneration Tribunal has determined an increase of 3 per cent to mayor and councillor fees.

The new fees will be $21,730 for councillors and $69,150 for the mayor ($21,730 councillor fee plus additional fee of $47,420).

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