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The next step for the Mackay Park project requires a good hard look by all involved

The Beagle Editor, The federal Labor candidate’s recent pledge to help fund the aquatics/arts/leisure/community complex in the Bay is welcome but it is important that she and her party, like our councillors, are aware of the absolute necessity to retain an Olympic size pool in Batemans Bay and to ensure that all the proposed facilities are fit-for-purpose at least for the next couple of generations.

It is hoped that Labor understands it would not make sense to have the 50 metre Olympic pool separate from complex if their use of the word “outdoor” means in another location. The synergy of having all the aquatic features on the one site will be necessary to attract the clientele needed to make it financially acceptable. This doesn’t preclude having the big pool immediately outside the main air conditioned building but sliding doors and the like would be effective to enclose it in the colder months: the important thing is that is warm enough for year round use by the serious and recreational swimmers and this can be achieved, for instance, with roll-back covers at night to prevent heat loss.

The other consideration to obtain maximum usage by visitors, is that the site needs to be visible to the maximum number of passing potential “clients” because the volume of visitors who would not otherwise be users, particularly in the colder months, will be the icing on the viability cake (just as many local businesses have to make hay while the visitors’ sun shines!). In this respect, and as much as it is feared could happen with the old bowlo site, the Mackay Park location for the aquatics centre is superior to Hanging Rock.

The mini-golf is also a “tourist trap” and could be left where it is with the water slides and the rest of the aquatic features immediately to its south, again for synergistic, mutually symbiotic reasons.

Whether the arts/cultural bits are next door at the southern end or on the bowlo site wouldn’t matter all that much as they have more of a “destination” nature: they could be on another site altogether for that matter, Hanging Rock for instance, space permitting, but the old bowlo site would present a “gateway” development possibility .

It is important though to keep in mind that, now the elements have been linked, there is an expectation that all will be located in the Mackay Park precinct. Their coming into being as a concept on the one site was probably initially part of the political pre-election promise process, then perhaps after a “what have we done?” moment, taken over by the economic rationalism of combining all under the one roof for construction economies and grant attractiveness.

Now that the aquatic, arts and community facilities are linked as a concept and grant money is considerably short of what the publicly released costings suggest, the “economic rationalism” has shifted up a gear, looking for ways to save money up front to take up the currently offered grants by eliminating components in the aquatic area and reducing the number and size of the arts/cultural/communities facilities. This short term view will be detrimental if not fatal to the long term usage and viability of the whole complex and each affected component. Confusingly we are now offered split buildings in two of the current concepts – is this a facing up to the reality that a combined building has funding and operational difficulties or is it greasing the path for supporting two discrete locations?

After the Labor candidate’s announcement, it would be premature to despair about ever getting a replacement Olympic pool in the Bay, rather there is a real opportunity for presenting the full story to her in the hope that sanity will prevail and that she will be able to talk sense to council. If this is egged on by the inevitable, but in this case perhaps opportune, political nonsense leading up to both elections, then it could be the silver lining that has clouded this project since its inception. Let’s hope so!! Jeff de Jager Coila

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