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Council dogpaddling over 50m pool

Last Wednesday evening Fight for Batemans Bays 50m Pool team members met with Mayor Liz Innes, accompanied by General Manager, Dr Dale, Directors Usher, Arthur and Sharpe to again put the community’s case to retain a 50m pool in the Mackay Park Precinct Redevelopment. Constructive headway was expected, following the well-attended ‘Our Town Our Say’ public meeting in February. Disappointingly, and contrary to undertakings given by Minister Constance to Karyn Starmer from Moruya Surf Life Saving and others at our meeting with him on 16/3/18, saying that several key issues relating to the 50m pool would be raised with ESC executive and the Mayor at a ‘formal’ meeting that same afternoon, we were surprised to be told by the Mayor and General Manager that their meeting was an ‘informal’ meeting over lunch and no discussions were had regarding our earlier meeting with the Minister. That’s not the Minister that many of us have come to know.

In response to our letter to the Mayor dated 9th March 2018 raising 17 important questions, we were advised that a response would be forwarded to us next week sometime.

A local independent structural engineer experienced in the construction of aquatic centres, invited by us to offer his expertise at our meeting, was unfortunately sidelined after the Mayor and General Manager’s objection citing a potential ‘conflict of interest’ as the reason. The Mayor’s disdain toward this gentleman was palpable and, quite frankly, rude.

Director Usher said the population in Batemans Bay does not warrant a 50m pool - but we know that current usage indicates otherwise. For example, it was confirmed that the number of lap swimmers at Batemans Bay pool this morning at 6.30am was 20, as is the norm. Of course, over peak periods, this number at least trebles and that is only the early morning swimmers. One can only imagine how many people would be crammed into a 25m pool during the holiday season.

Council and Minister Constance are promoting the Mackay Park development as ‘a once-in-a-lifetime/generation-opportunity’. Okay, so let’s get it right for the whole community. We again pointed out the fact that, in Australia the ‘sport’ of swimming has the highest participation rate of any other sport.

If in fact it is proven beyond doubt that our current 50m pool is beyond saving, and given Minister Constance’ advice that capital costs are not an issue, and the running costs of an outdoor pool are considerably less than an indoor heated pool, then a reasonable compromise would be for a replacement 50m solar heated outdoor pool alongside the planned indoor facility. This should be taken into consideration during the design phase and we have asked that for such an idea to have any credibility it must be shown on the plans for the precinct as “future 50m pool”. Only then can we have reasonable confidence that Council has seriously considered the option.

Today we have had confirmation from the structural engineering firm who prepared the audit report on the existing 50m pool that a letter satisfying Council’s new legal requirements would be sent to council early next week. It will then be put to a full meeting of the councillors to determine whether or not to release this report to the public. Ho-hum. This is despite the fact that Calibre only ever needed a ‘simple’ letter from council for it to release its report to us, months ago. We have also requested Council release the full report from the quantity surveyors Turner & Townsend, referred to in the Business Case prepared by Otium, which hopefully will shed some light on how the figure of $6.5m ‘extra’ for a 50m indoor heated pool was determined. Until such time as all relevant reports are released to the public, we have no alternative but to continue to be skeptical of council’s assertions/costings and motives

Mayor Innes vigorously disagreed with our assertion that neither she nor any successor, having overseen the construction of a brand new aquatic facility in Batemans Bay, would be likely to go back to the community, several years hence, arguing for the 50m pool that they should have built in the first place. The Mayor and General Manager reiterated that this project was rushed due to deadline dates for grant submissions. This is not entirely true. Only the first round of the cultural/arts had a close off date with 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds ongoing. The other Federal and State funding bodies are ongoing. Minister Constance has stated he wants bulldozers on the ground before the next State elections. Why the rush?

Council staff admitted they knew that users of the pool would not agree to the concept of replacing the 50m pool with a 25m pool. Perhaps this is the reason these users were not fully consulted.

Disappointing that very little constructive headway was made during this meeting apart from a faint glimmer of hope that a 50m outdoor pool could be included at the design stage. This was an idea put forward by some of our councillors at earlier private meetings. Convincing the staff, who appear to be running the show, is another matter.

It’s Our Town, Our Pool, the time to speak up is now. Ring or write to your councillors. Go to council meetings. Here are the contact details: Once our 50m pool is demolished, it’s gone for good. Coral Anderson, Maureen Searson, Peter Coggan, John Mobbs


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