There are many in the community who would have enjoyed the opportunity to attend the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre group’s meeting at Club Catalina today where the Mayor and Council staff presented to a very attentive audience an update to the plans they in place for the proposed Mackay Park Aquatic Centre and Performance space. Some might not want a blow by blow details of the meeting from start to finish so here is a quick overview of the critical information. The State Government has grant monies available The Grant applications close in three weeks. Council has been encouraged to make application. They have decided that the best thing for the Mackay Park development is: 1) to marry the Pool/Performance space under one roof. 2) to locate them at the southern end where the pool currently sits 3) to submit the concept plan that has been prepared that has a 25m pool. 4) to secure the grant and then begin open dialogue with the community of design details In a nutshell: The CONCEPT Plan has been costed and is expected to see the project cost $46 million. A copy of the CONCEPT plan has been made available to the Beagle via THIS LINK for your viewing. ( http://bit.ly/secretBBBCstuff ) The meeting was advised that the $46 million was for a 25m pool and NOT a 50m and that an estimated $6.5 million would be required to proceed with a 50m pool with an additional $260,000 to $300,000 required annually for running costs as the larger pool would require more heating, more maintenance costs, more in chemicals and more in attending staff. The Mayor reiterated several times that it is a CONCEPT Plan and that it was NOT a final plan. It was a plan that would indicate to the grants board the general wishes of the community of both aquatic and performance space. Should the Council be successful in gaining grant consideration then the plan would be bought back to the community for full consultation. Council will now seek one last round of inputs from stakeholder groups before they finalise their submission to be put to Council in late August for endorsement. Now for the Meeting in full. Chaired by Carolyn Harding the meeting opened just after 2pm. After the preliminaries of the groups previous minutes, treasurers report, fundraising and correspondences Carolyn introduced the first guest speakers, Council’s Cathy Arthur and Ann Nicholson. Ms Arthur advised that Council’s pools now came under new management and that Community Aquatics were already proactively preparing a summer program that would hopefully see higher visitation to the pools and higher participation rates in various classes and events. It was identified that there had been serious problems in providing coaching at Batemans Bay pool and that there is consideration of extending the coaching services enjoyed in Ulladulla to Batemans Bay over the next season. Presently there are 50 kids from the Bay area that travel to Ulladulla to train in their 50m indoor pool. It was identified that this also presented a financial drain on families redirected money out of the shire. It was noted that whilst a coach with a heated pool could work year around the outdoor seasonal Batemans Bay pool offered only half year employment at best and this, together with the loss of continuity in training spelt the demise of any long-term commitment from either coach or swimmer to the Batemans Bay pool. With an exodus to the north it was identified that whilst Narooma has a heated 50m pool it did not have the drawcard of the coaching available in Ulladulla and that the distance from Batemans Bay, where there is a far greater population base, is considerably less to Ulladulla than Narooma. It was identified however that as a consequence of this exodus it was now overcrowded at the Ulladulla pool between 3pm and 6:30pm with many now not able to get in. In addition to the discussions around more elite training the issue of Learn To Swim classes was raised and it was revealed the there is difficulty in securing learn to Swim Instructors. Via a letter that raised many issues Carolyn Harding read out the most critical elements: Nippers signups and swimming club memberships were hitting a rock bottom in the Shire. Also at a very low level was the number of children who can actually swim. Of 90 enrolled in a recent Department of Education subsidised Learn To Swim program 75 could not and there were several too scared to put their face in the water. The anecdotes around the room quickly revealed that there was now a reality in the Shire that there were many children who could not swim. It was also noted that while the heavily subsidized Learn To Swim programs were available it was at the discretion of the school to take them up or not. From a school teacher at the meeting “The reality is that we are looking at a whole generation of kids who don’t swim and as a community we need to address that” As a direct result of this there are too few students able to be mustered for a school swimming carnival and schools are needing to combine in order to find enough numbers to assemble a carnival day. It was also pointed out that with such drop offs in competitors comes a drop off in coaches and even the sundry supporters such as timekeepers. Local swimming clubs that once had over a hundred members barely have forty now. Ms Arthur and Ms Nicholson from Council also heard that the consequences of Nippers dropping off would have a carry-on effect up the line to such a point that our local beaches won’t have the Life Guards they now enjoy over summer months as numbers dwindle. A question was asked relating to the business model that coaches would be considering. Were overheads cheaper outside the shire? Council staff advised that insurances, association fees etc would be uniform and that in setting the user fees for Eurobodalla pools Council was “conscious of issues to stimulate use and clear of the outcomes of participation and seeing a real return for the community”. For the remaining hour of the meeting the Mayor, Liz Innes, and Director of Planning, Lindsay Usher spoke of the history and process to date of how they arrived at the CONCEPT plans mindful to reiterate that “there is still room for discussion” and that as they are CONCEPTUAL ONLY they were not able to answer detailed questions. The Mayor recognized that the existing Batemans Bay pool “is an aging piece of infrastructure that is run down and not fit for purpose”. “This (grant) is a once in a lifetime opportunity and is off the back of the poles and wires sales” “This is an opportunity to shore up and back ourselves and do something positive for the community”. “There is a real excitement”. The Mayor advised the meeting that the consultants looked at the size of the community and the draw. Initially their concept was considered unusual with arts and pool under one roof however they advised that this would reduce building costs, running costs, centre management, marketing and programming. The initial idea of the Sunset Committee was to have the two entities separate. A costing was requested and it was revealed that by having two separate entities the costs to construct and to manage would be considerably more. By putting both under one roof and by locating them in the Crown Land component of the Mackay Park reserve it was also recognized that it would leave the old bowling club site unencumbered. At this point the Mayor advised that there had been a downturn in available hotel beds and that this area might be developed to service that need or to reviatilise the CBD area with more residents. In regards to the submission the Mayor said “We were already on the front foot when the grants were announced. We had no warning that they were coming. The negative of this is that there isn’t time to do full public consultation. We have already done solid consultation but we haven’t the time for extended in the narrow time frame we have.” Lindsay Usher advised that 187 submissions had been received regarding the precinct development. He assured the gathering that one of the key criteria to the grant application was to demonstrate that such a facility is affordable. By combining the facilities and reducing management space Council was attempting to reduce the costs as much as it were able. In regard to the 50m pool it was revealed that the CONCEPT Plan had a 20m x 25 m pool however it also had a warm water pool, disabled access, a splash deck and waterslide. The consultant’s rationale was that a combination of function and adventure would see higher visitation. In regard to the 50m the consultant identified that Narooma has a 50m pool and as such should then be where the community bases its training and its swim events such as carnivals. The Mayor advised “If you go for a 50m you will lose wider options for more users” “Let’s get our grant fund application in and in time when we look closely at our options we can sacrifice some things to accommodate others”. “If we go forward as a community that is not in agreement we stand to jeopardise the application” “The time frame is what it is and it is a very tight time frame” Dr Sue Mckenzie asked from the floor if representatives from the Arts and Aquatic groups have some opportunity to participate as she was wondering where the community at large fits in with the designs. Jeff de Jager enquired about Council’s exposure to the project in terms of capital contribution and maintenance with the Mayor responding that it would require “some commitment from Council” and that here understanding was that they “certainly had capacity” adding that it was “the most cost effective (via a grant) way of getting a facility” “ No one wants to see a big white elephant that we can’t afford”. When asked why there was such secrecy surrounding the plans and discussions the Mayor advised that Council has to be careful in releasing concept plans as they are all too often taken by the public as being FINAL PLANS when they clearly are not. The meeting was then advised of the plans and that they would be on display for the gathering to view after the meeting and Lindsay Usher then began to offer some figures on the estimated costs of the CONCEPT Plans. “The purpose of the concept is to also show what fits on the site and it begins to determine the costs” When asked what will happen to the Mini Put Putt the gathering were advised it would be relocated within the precinct as it was recognised as bringing economic benefit to the shire.
The meeting was advised that the $46 million was for a 25m pool and NOT a 50m and that an estimated $6.5 million would be required to proceed with a 50m pool with an additional $260,000 to $300,000 required annually for running costs as the larger pool would require more heating, more maintenance costs, more in chemicals and more in attending staff. The Mayor reiterated several times that it is a CONCEPT Plan and that it was NOT a final plan. It was a plan that would indicate to the grants board the general wishes of the community of both aquatic and performance space. “These are NOT small numbers. They are large numbers and the councilors will need to be mindful of this” “The pool comes at a cost but that is what we do – the 25m and 50m debate is an issue we will have to decide on. It is about what we can afford and what we are prepared to pay going forward” It was also suggested that the Federal Government through the member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis be lobbied for funding as Fiona Phillips, Labor candidate for Gilmore had already shown support of the project. In conclusion, the Mayor repeated that it was an opportunity that we cannot miss. She did admit thought that if not successful then Plan B would be to look at a staged development based on what the community can afford. She finished with a “HUGE” commendation of Member for Bega who had organized that the Shire’s General Manager and grant application author meet with NSW Infrastructure for guidance.