Is there really a problem with the proposed Mackay Park development?

Dear Editor, Is there really a problem with the proposed Mackay Park development?

The look of the proposed Mackay Park development concept plan is pretty good but misses out on a number of important features that should be incorporated to ensure the hopes and aspirations of the potential users will be realised after years of work, lobbying and fundraising.

Having said that, it is hoped that the plans for the project will be amended so it will go ahead with the right mix of features for the needs of the next several generations.

Lots of letters, opinion pieces and comments have appeared in the media listing issues that need to be resolved. These are the ones that have sprung to mind and which require full and public answers/explanations by our councillors –

  • BBBC was purchased without a purpose in April 2016 and there is still no purpose in October 2017 – and the site is not part of the proposed Aquatic and Arts centre

  • The concept plan used in the grant application process does not include key features required by major user groups i.e. 50 Metre pool, swimming club house, adequate theatre features, kitchen and bar facilities for the large spaces that could be used as theatres, reception centres, conventions, and the like.

  • The mayor says a 50 metre pool and other arts/cultural wishes are unaffordable but has not said what costs on top of the consultant’s, Otium, Option 1 plan would make the project become unaffordable – this is despite other facilities, especially those with a social impact, being provided by council and being partially/heavily/fully subsidised.

  • There is no provision made on the Mackay Park site for a bus interchange (the proposed bridge approach will prevent buses entering Clyde Street as they do now).

  • Consultation, engagement and transparency have all been very much less than a project of this size deserves. It will affect generations to come. The list of those not consulted includes schools, sporting groups, health authorities, therapy providers, the general public and more, even in the Batemans Bay area and never mind beyond.

  • Despite the project being heralded as a “Gateway” development for the whole shire, the limited consultation conducted by Otium and council did not involve anyone or any organisation located south of Broulee and thereby ignoring the project’s importance to those in other parts of the shire who no doubt will be contributing financially one way or another if not actually using the facilities.

  • Otium’s consultation was with “targeted groups” – how, by whom and why were these particular groups selected is unknown and it appears, no allowances have been made for the views and needs of groups and the general population outside these targeted groups. Even the selected members of the Sunset Group were effectively gagged from discussing their activities in public.

  • Otium’s concept plan and business case were made available to council in February 2017 and there has been plenty of time for wide and proper consultation and engagement. These documents were not acceptable to the Sunset Committee when finally presented to the committee in August 2017. Despite the earlier delays, there has been a rush since to lodge grant applications from funding sources that were not closing off.

  • Sections in Otium’s draft Aquatic Strategy (penned by them on council’s request!) and in their business case for the project are misleading and the logic is flawed particularly about the current and future uses of the Narooma Pool as the shires preferred pool for carnivals and events. Irrespective of Narooma currently having a 50 metre pool, (which has a limited life anyhow!), the major events and carnivals should rightly be held in the most populous part of the shire.

  • If carnivals and events are to be held at Narooma because of the 50 metre pool there, the limited spaces for buses and car parking will not cope.

  • Similarly, if carnivals and events are to be held at Narooma because of the 50 metre pool there, the rest of the shire’s community will be forced to incur excessive time and travelling costs for generations.

  • Council is proceeding on the opinion of one hastily appointed consultant without obtaining comparative quotations or investigating the appropriateness of the operating methods proposed by the consultant.

  • Council solicited letters of support from organisations in the Bay area without revealing the elimination of the 50 metre pool that has been available in Batemans Bay since 1966.

  • There is no indication of how the difference between grants applied for and the total cost of the development will be funded. It seems only $36 million out of $46 million has been applied for so how the balance will be funded remains unknown.

  • The councillors decided to go ahead with grant applications without full costings i.e. depreciation and borrowing costs being made known. (Some councillors claim to have been successful business people! Duh!)

This is probably not the full list and maybe your readers might like to contact their councillors to seek answers to what may be seen to be the problems with the proposed Mackay Park development.

Jeff de Jager


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