Mackay Park: The numbers aren't stacking up and the waters around grant applications remain mudd
Eurobodalla Council is coming under serious questioning by the community over its Mackay Park aquatic project Members of the public are asking for an explanation as to how a Council endorsed motion voted on unanimously in 2013 to build an aquatic centre at Hanging Rock was "overturned" without any formal motion and without any public consultation. The community are still asking questions around why Council bought the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site for $2.7m saying at the time it was a strategic decision only to then decide the site will be sold in four to five years time once the RMS have finished leasing it for use as a bridge construction compound. With the failure to secure a private Public Partnership for the Bowling Club site that was to see a private company finance, on Council owned land, a multistory convention centre, tourism accommodation, shopping precinct with information centre and bus station Council has very little control over the site once it is sold other than by Development Application constraints. It is still unknown why Council refused to discuss the proposal to purchase the site "as is" by a local consortium prepared to pay the $2.7m that Council had outlaid. The proposal of the consortium of an entertainment and market place venue was, it is understood, given an audience by Council even though an audience to present the idea and the purchase proposal was offered on several occasions. Now the financial viability of the $46m pool project with minimal use performance space tacked on is under scrutiny. In the initial grant application Council's consultants put forward a business plan that would come under closer scrutiny should the application have passed the first round. For the sake of openness and transparency a request was lodged last December seeking from the NSW Office of Sport a copy of the ESC's application for a grant for the aquatic bid under the Regional Sport Infrastructure Fund. Although Sport had initially decided to give provide a copy the ESC formally objected and managed to get NSW Office of Sport to reverse that decision. Of interest in pursuing that Sporting grant application would be to determine if the ESC pointed out in its grant application that, if the application was successful, it would result in the demolition of B/Bay's only competition length swimming pool. Also of interest, should the grant application be finally released, will be to determine if Council met the second essential criteria of: All proposals need to demonstrate affordability of the project relative to the available funding, taking into account net lifecycle costs, and allowing for ongoing operating and maintenance requirements including an assessment of a range of fundamental project planning requirements. The final determination of the awarding of the grant is that "the assessment focuses on the robustness of the project cost planning, including if the funding is for a new or existing asset, how detailed and realistic the budget is, if other funding has been secured, and if the nominating organisation has an existing plan and budget in place to manage project costs. The organisation must also have the capacity and financial sustainability to fund and manage ongoing operation and maintenance of the infrastructure over its lifetime." Of concerns to those seeking copies of the Grant application is that the figures required to fully answer the above criteria have NOT, to date been prepared nor provided to Councillors or the community as evidence that the proposed complex is actually an affordable community funded facility for Eurobodalla ratepayers who, as a whole, from Durras to Tilba, will need to contribute to its upkeep and inevitable replacement. It is understood that the decision to NOT provide a copy of the grant application was that (as stated by Right to Information Officer NSW Office of Sport May 15th 2018) : "Documents 4, 6 and 7 were provided to the Office of Sport as part of the application for the Regional Sports Information Fund, which you requested access to. "Because all applications to the Fund are still undergoing assessment, and it would prejudice the effective exercise by the agency, i.e. the assessment of the application, if the document were to be released to the public domain. I have therefore determined that there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of these documents." The Government has now progressively announced the successful applicants under Round 1 of the Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund. To date, they have announced grants to Lismore City Council, Wagga Wagga City Council, Dubbo Regional Council and Ballina Shire Council. Should Eurobodalla not be successful in securing a NSW Office of Sport grant they are still the recipients of the $26m Regional Growth Grant announced in March this year. That grant is unconditional and therefore requires no evidence of financial capacity to build, maintain and renew any resultant asset. Without scrutiny of the reviewed figures that were requested by the Member for Bega of Councillors Innes and Pollock at a meeting in November 2017 the community has no assurity that Council can either afford to build the centre nor have the financial capacity within its limited revenue steam to maintain the facility. The only figures that the community have seen are now coming under considerable scrutiny as the assumptions are not reflective of the usage trends of existing Eurobodalla facilities and the projected income steams are considered questionable along with the lack of detail of the outgoings, as a whole, required to run the proposed complex inclusive of depreciation.