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Mackay Park Sunset Committee resignation

To many in the community watching on as the Batemans Bay Aquatic performance centre project moves ahead will no doubt know that there has been disquiet in regards to how the Mackay Park Sunset Committee have been limited by Council their ability to communicate with the community who they stand to represent. Following on from further disquiet when it was revealed to the wider community that Council staff had determined it would not be pursuing a 50m pool in its $46 million centre the rumblings across the community have seen further rumblings within the Sunset Committee to the point where David Maclachlan, a member of the committee representing the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce, tendered his resignation from the committee today In his resignation letter David advised his fellow committee members of the reasons for his resignation

"It is with great regret that I tender my resignation from the Mackay Park Sunset Committee.

I would have liked to be part of a genuine process which includes relevant stakeholders and expertise to work towards a great outcome for the community. Until such an inclusive process exists, I can no longer be part of a process which I believe marginalises expertise, stakeholders and the community.

"I list the following influencing issues which are in addition to the issues raised in the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber submission to minutes 21 August 2017, which have not been addressed.

"To date there has been no evidence based methodology or rationale behind seating capacity, footprint or management discussed in any Sunset Committee meeting. I also believe Otium’s plan was presented without informed community input and there lacked expertise in multi-purpose arts venues and design rigour. This was clearly demonstrated by the consultants comments in the above mentioned Chamber submission to minutes.

"Neither the Committee nor Council includes experienced commercial multi-use venue owners or managers other than myself, and so requires significant information and coaching to overcome this lack of knowledge at all levels to make informed decisions. This has not occurred. It is no surprise that the current design and concept contains the same known mistakes encountered by other local Shire run venues.

"While it has been constantly explained that the venue will be iconic with design changes after funding is established, I understand there will be no change in footprint, use and concept. Thus, the centre will never have adequate space to host events such as the Wiggles, ABC Playgroups, Bananas in Pyjamas, Large Choirs, Exhibitions, Fairs, Shows, Large open format events and performances. After a decade of running commercial multi-purpose venues, combined with running national, state and local events on a commercial basis, I am gobsmacked that exhibitions and events have not been included to ensure functionality and commercial viability.

"The final Sunset meeting which allowed public attendance was indicative of most meetings. The meeting was again reduced to a mediocre Q and A understanding of Council intentions, with no time or allowance for informed discussion. These orchestrated meetings, seemingly for the purpose of satisfying Council’s community consultative requirements are not the place for advancing informed and considered concepts.

"In addition, Council’s legal advice on seeking my removal from the Sunset Committee has never been disclosed to me.

"I do hope that Batemans Bay receives a functional vibrant multi-use venue for Arts, Culture and Tourism. However, design changes alone based on the current footprint and concepts are insufficient to avoid a white elephant scenario."

Fellow committee member, Jeannie Brewer, PerfEx President, has followed David's resignation feeling compelled to back up David’s resignation letter which all the Mackay Park Sunset Committee Members received today. Jeannie advised the Beagle that "David is not alone in his disenchantment with Council process and more importantly, lack of expertise in the planning for the arts facility, which is my main concern. "The Community somehow needs to be aware of these concerns and shortcomings, simply to ensure best outcomes for us all. In Jeannie's communication she advised her fellow committee members that having read David Maclachlan’s letter of resignation with sadness it did not come as a surprise. "When I think back over the Sunset Meetings we have had, I cannot think of one significant community suggestion or request that has been taken into account. I may be wrong, but this is my memory of events. "Maybe I am naive, but I thought that by signing up to the Sunset Committee, we would have real community input. Instead, we have been stymied at every turn. Unfortunately, I am now a total cynic and feel that Community Consultation is only a word. "The lack of transparency is something totally new to me and I cannot see how it can possibly lead to best practice or outcome. On reflection, it seems ludicrous, that the first time my PerfEx Committee was permitted to view the Council preferred Concept Plan, was only after I felt I had no choice but to agree with it because of Council resistance to any other suggestions, and only a week before it went out for Public discussion. "In other words, after there was no turning back. "I am also genuinely nervous about the design outcome of the Centre, both internally and externally. If you Google Otium Planning Art, it comes up, but the word Art is crossed out. In other words, the word Art does not appear anywhere relating to Otium Planning. Therefore, I really wonder at Otium’s expertise in this field. "It seems reprehensible that we are potentially spending millions of dollars on a centre which lacks expert input and ignoring community concerns. My own input was half an hour’s phone collaboration with David Mason from Otium as I happen to have been overseas when he was in Batemans Bay. "The resulting inclusions in the Art Centre fall far short of what the organisations are telling us they actually need, and I am now very nervous indeed about the timeframe to get it right and the expertise needed before we spend these millions in a centre which currently appears to satisfy no-one. "This does not take into account the tight footprint which leaves absolutely no flexibility for future generations. "I now appeal to all involved in decision-making within the Eurobodalla Shire Council, to allow the community time for real input and real expertise to guide us. It is a great shame that someone like David Maclachlan, who is the most enthusiastic community minded person this town has seen in a long time, with more experience in entertainment centres than anyone else either in the community or Council, has felt compelled to walk away. "We should be embracing this kind of knowledge and experience, not sidelining it in preference to advice from Consultants who operate out of Brisbane and who are Sports and Leisure based."

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