LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Mayor Gets Her Claws into the 50 Metre Pool People
If nothing else, the March 4 meeting of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee provided the audience with some comic relief. One attendee described it as a “cat fight”. The Mayor doing most of the scratching. Frankly it was an embarrassment to observe !
The meeting was made up of three disparate groups. The first group was an apparently tired pool committee that has folded to Council demands ( quite a reversal in attitude from the last time I attended their meeting ) to reduce the main pool to 25 metres. The second group was of Council representatives intent on forcing their 25-metre pool decision/vision onto the Batemans Bay community without any further debate, (how surprising) .... and finally a large group of people wanting to retain a 50-metre swimming pool in the new complex.
None of the arguments presented by the Mayor or council staff were convincing. Added to this, Council is back to its typical game of denying the public and involved community groups access to the full and complete figures upon which it’s assumptions are based. Consultancy briefs are secret documents as are the cost estimates supporting a business plan that may or may not exist. As a local real estate agent, I dispute the Council Planning Director’s argument that the demographics support swimming facilities for an ageing population. We are currently seeing an influx of younger people into our region, I understand schools are full and it is impossible to find early day care placings for children. Council needs to encourage these younger residents to improve our population mix and future prospects for balanced development, NOT just our more mature residence. Like it or NOT the demographic is changing !
A 50 metre Olympic size pool has been the standard for public aquatic centres for many years. Smaller communities have accepted 25 metre pools as a compromise, but a recognised regional centre like Batemans Bay must surely position itself to meet the current and future needs of competitive swim clubs, school carnival competitors, distance lap swimmers, adult sporting clubs, both local and visiting.
It is ludicrous for any council administration to say that it cannot afford the cost differential between a twenty-five-metre pool, and fifty metre pool, in a lavish $46million development, that will be grant funded.
The argument that this Council could not afford the additional running costs when it already operates and maintains a 50-metre pool on the same site is equally exaggerated. If Council rationalised the ever-increasing number of personnel under its control (NOT saying those staff are not hard workers but I question the capacity and effectiveness of management) a lot of money would be freed up for community projects and services, including the heating and maintenance of any number of 50 metre pools.
With aquatic committees, sunset committees and Council’s business advisers involved in the new Mackay Park development, I am astounded that we are “going it alone” on a site that has enormous commercial potential. Instead of looking for government handouts to fund the total cost of these facilities and crying poor-mouth about increased operating expenses, it is time our council did some serious “outside of the square” ( God help us ) thinking. It would make a lot of sense for council to canvas development proposals, and partner with commercial operators to maximise the site’s potential and minimise the call on taxpayer and ratepayer funds.