Articles around the Mackay Park project
On 29 August 2017, Council held an Extraordinary Meeting to consider a draft business case and concept plans for two options for redevelopment of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct for a Regional Aquatic Centre and Arts and Cultural Facility. Council resolved to endorse option one, being the development of a Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre and gateway visitor centre, on the southern part of the precinct for the purpose of seeking grant funding to construct the facility.
September 2017 Grant application made in under the provisions of the NSW government's Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund for $18m and Grant application made to the Regional Cultural Fund for $8m.
November 2017, one of the members of the 'save our 50m pool group' requested, from the ESC, a copy of the application that the council had submitted for the grant under the NSW Sports Infrastructure Fund.
"On 25 November, the council rejected that request and provided the following justification for doing so.
“Council has sort (sic) advice from the NSW Office of Sport and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet who are both involved with the grant applications. Both have confirmed that the applications are treated as commercial in confidence because to release such information would reduce the competitive value of the application placing Council at a competitive disadvantage amongst other bodies competing for the same funding. Council agrees with this position and does not intend to release details of the grant applications.”
In February 2018 Eurobodalla Council made two grant applications. The first to the Office of Sport and the second to the Regional Cultural Fund (GIPA Request pending).
In early March 2018, Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund informally advise a member of the public that the Sports Grant did not succeed in its application.
When asked for a copy of the application by Council the Office of Sport had determined that it was appropriate under the State's 'FOI' legislation that the general public should be given access to copy of council's grant application (with some redactions). However, Sport also advised that, at that stage, they weren't able to immediately release the document because a 3rd party (later revealed to be council) had objected to Sport's decision.
Shortly after council formally requested an 'internal review' by Sport of its earlier decision to release the grant application. On 27 April 2018 the Office of Sport accepted the council's arguments and decided that the document should not be publicly released at that time.
There was no challenge to that particular decision in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal mainly based on an understanding that the document would probably become publicly available a few months later in early September 2018. It did not.
On 19th October 2018 a new 'FOI' request was lodged with the Office of Sport. In response to that request, on 30 November 2018 Sport formally decided that the applicant be given a copy of the grant application (with some redactions).
Once again, council disagreed with that decision and again sought a formal 'internal review' of Sport's decision.
However, on this occasion, Sport rejected the ESC's arguments and on 21 January 2019 formally ruled that its November 2018 decision to release the document would stand and, as a consequence, scheduled to provide the document on 12 February – unless, of course, the council chose to exercise its entitlement to appeal against Sport's decision to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Council then mounted a case to the Information Commission that the deadline for a decision on any appeal against Sport's decision should be in late March, not early February, a decision by someone in this council to drag this process out as long as possible.
In the end a redacted copy was obtained that revealed that Council had used the Otium Business Case
Councillors were briefed on 5 March 2019, involving the third party consultation for two GIPA applications sent to NSW Office of Sport. Jim Bright addressed council the week before at the Ordinary Council Meeting 26 February 2019.
What were council trying to hide from the community?
Possibly the fact that they had used the Otium Business Case in their grant application:
10. Warranties and Disclaimers
There will be differences between projected and actual results, because events and circumstances frequently do not occur as expected and those differences may be material. We do not express an opinion as to whether actual results will approximate projected results, nor can we confirm, underwrite or guarantee the achievability of the projections as it is not possible to substantiate assumptions which are based on future events. Neither Otium Planning Group, nor any member or employee of Otium Planning Group, nor any subconsultants engaged in the preparation of this report assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the content of this report. Neither Otium Planning Group, nor any member or employee of Otium Planning group, nor any sub-consultants engaged in the preparation of this report accepts responsibility arising in any way whatsoever to any persons in respect of this report, for any errors or omissions herein, arising through negligence or otherwise however caused, and will not be liable to Eurobodalla Shire Council or any third party in any way for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or exemplary damages resulting from the use or misuse of this report.
It should be noted that the financial model does not incorporate sensitivity analysis or depreciation at this stage. This will be done after the base case assumptions and preferred design option have been approved by Council. Further, once the preferred design option and financial modelling has been approved and finalised, an assessment of the economic impact of the facility should be undertaken by Council to support any applications for external funding.
The application to the Office of Sport failed.
Gladys Berejiklian and the Member for Bega the Hon. Andrew Constance came to Batemans Bay on 26 March 2018 to announce $26m of funding towards the construction of the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park Batemans Bay.
The following day, 27th March 2018, Eurobodalla councillors reaffirmed their commitment to the concept design of the new Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay delivered as a Mayoral Report offering the Councillors only 15 minutes to digest a 1600 word report before adopting it. By doing so the councillors set in place the demise of the Batemans Bay 50m pool and the subterfuge, the secret invitation only meetings, the declaration that business plans are not to be publicly available for reasons of 'Commercial in Confidence'.
26th March 2018 The Bay Post reported "The $26 million in funding includes $18 million for the aquatic centre, and $8 million for the arts and cultural facilities. The funding will come from the NSW Government’s $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund."
On the 15th August 2018 the Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ asked a question without notice directed to the Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts. Given the Premier and the member for Bega jointly announced on 26 March that they would provide $26 million for a new indoor aquatic and cultural centre at Batemans Bay consisting of $18 million for the aquatic centre and $8 million for the arts and cultural facility, where will the $8 million for the arts and cultural component be drawn from?
The Hon. DON HARWIN: As I informed the House yesterday, people should be aware that the Regional Cultural Fund round two is open. I imagine this project would be eligible but I need to check if there is an existing funding agreement.
The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) (15:31): I may have covered this question in my answer yesterday but, if I did not, it is planned that round two announcements will be made before the end of this calendar year. I cannot be more specific at this stage.
The Hon. Peter Primrose: It is supposed to be a competitive process and you are announcing it already.
In October 2018, the Australian Government assigned $25M to the project, and invited Council to submit a FULL business case to the Regional Growth Fund for assessment.
What is known in regards to the Federal Grant was that the business plan adopted by Council in August 2017 WAS NOT a full business plan and clearly advised it was NOT to be used for the purpose of grant applications. Between October 2018 and April 2019 the application for the $25m was assessed and found to comply.
In an email to FOI@infrastructure.gov.au on 31st October 2018 by The Beagle "The Eurobodalla Shire Council, in having been successful in Round one of the Regional Growth Grants will now be required to prepare a Full Business Case. In a telephone call to your office it was confirmed that candidates are provided a template to assist with that Full Business Case.
For the purpose of news, so as to ascertain if the Full Business Case takes into consideration the ongoing affordability of ratepayers to support such new infrastructure without it becoming a financial burden, I request a copy of the default template to establish what criteria is measured under a Full Business Case and to determine if there is due diligence paid to the proven affordability of such a grant without it becoming a financial risk requiring either a rate increase or a removal of services.
As the Full Business Case template will have no information on it whatsoever I would not consider it impinging on any commercial in confidence. Once the Eurobodalla Council provide their Full Business Case I will be seeking a copy of that document as well."
A formal request by for that application has been refused by Council so the application details and business case presented remain unseen.
NOTE: November 2019 The Australian National Audit Office found and revealed that the assessment processes for a separate round of Regional Jobs and Investment Packages (that included Gilmore) were "not to the standard required by the grants administration framework" and that "there was insufficient evidence that each of the more than 60 individuals that undertook the assessments received adequate training.
Feb 20 2019 the Mayor stated “We intend to deliver a centre with a 25 metre, 10 lane indoor pool, a warm water therapy pool, learn to swim pool, water slides and a splash pad for the kids. There’ll (There will) be a café and fitness areas, and on the arts side, we’ll (we will) have a 350-seat theatre, dance and rehearsal studios and community meeting rooms to complete the centre.
The 2019 New South Wales state election was held on Saturday 23 March 2019 to elect the 57th Parliament of New South Wales
On April 1st, 2019 the then Federal Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis revealed federal funding of $25 million for the construction of the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Precinct at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay. This was 11 days before the Federal Election was announced to be held Saturday 18 May 2019.
June 4, 2019 - David Maclachlan: President of Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber address to Council regarding the Batemans Bay Community Centre motion PE19/001 and the presented petition of approximately 1000 signatures concerning the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre.
January 18th, 2020 Questions asked around Mackay Park Federal Funding
Question: Is the Federal Government grant of $25m for the Mackay Park Leisure Centre embroiled in the latest Community Sport Infrastructure Program controversy regarding the Government's $100 million pre-election sports grants scheme? No. The $25 million, granted to the project, came instead from the equally controversial Regional Growth Fund.