THE Swan Yacht Club in East Fremantle is breathing a sigh of relief, with the Swan River Trust deciding not to pursue legal action over unauthorised works on boat pens.
The decision paves the way for the club to get cracking in August on a $4 million renovation that was signed off by the WA government this week.
The club had faced fines of more than $1 million over what was discovered to be hundreds of unauthorised works on pens and the clubhouse.
It spent $250,000 remedying the works, including propping up a sagging functions balcony, in order to show the Trust it wanted to cooperate.
Club commodore Kim Wilkie—a former federal Labor MP—acknowledges it’s been a tough two years with a rift between members so toxic that an organisational therapist was called in.
He’s keen to repair relationships across the board, including with the Trust and East Fremantle town council.
“We are in the process of spending nearly a million on the jetties, so the fines money can go into those instead,” he told the Herald.
“That’s the best possible outcome for the club because in addition we are spending $4m – $4.5m on the renovations.”
A major feature of the renovation will be a frontage featuring etched tilt-up concrete panels with images from the club’s more than 100-year history. It will be the first time the technology is used in Perth.
They’re also taking dinghies off the foreshore to improve public access.
The club already has the cash for the works: its merger with the Fremantle Club bought in $3.5m and the rest is in the bank.
The SYC was also supposed to merge with the Fremantle Workers Club, but the deal broke down leaving animosity between the two organisations.
It came at the same time as the SYC’s internal rift, which led to the forced resignation of former manager Geoff Reynolds.
His supporters accused the new executive of bullying Mr Reynolds and his family, including allocating his son the club’s worst pen and targeting his daughter over her dry pen. She was forced to pay cash after being hit with “points” for breaches of club rules; nobody else received the same treatment.
Mr Wilkie says hard decisions have been made to turn the club around but denies the family was targeted. Mr Reynold’s son was only recently asked to move his boat because it was too long for its pen and had caused a crash that damaged other boats.
He says the committee faced a lot of criticism from some club members, but they weren’t privy to confidential information.
The Herald discovered a forensic audit of the club’s finances revealed it owed the tax office $1.2m. An insider said that mainly related to sub-contractors and staff being paid in cash.
Mr Wilkie wouldn’t comment on the bill, other than to say the club’s in talks with the ATO and, after legal advice, is hopeful of another good outcome.
Adding to the club’s woes were allegations staff had been sexually harrassed by board members.
The Herald was told a board member had to resign.
Mr Wilkie gave a qualified ‘not true’, but wouldn’t elaborate. “Where there have been allegations, we have treated them exactly as we would have to under Worksafe . We investigated and dealt with them appropriately,” he said.
by STEVE GRANT