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Council's Mackay Park answers lead to more and more questions

In light of this week's revelation that Eurobodalla Council does not have a detailed business plan that might justify in any way their intent to sell off the Batemans Bay Community Centre to provide funds towards the Mackay Park Aquatic Centre there has been further information bought to light around the Mackay Park project by way of a written response to questions raised by the Our Towns Our Say group. OTOS has been firm in seeking answers to questions surrounding the controversial Mackay Park Regional Aquatic & Arts Cultural project for some time. In particular, OTOS has reflected ongoing concerns from those who attended its popular public meetings in 2018 and have acted as a voice for those community members in their correspondence to Council. The response to the OTOS questions below took 45 business days which is at odds with Council’s Customer Service Policy, which provides for council to respond to enquiries within 10 working days. None the less there are answers provided that readers might wish to be informed of. Q1: How do you justify excluding OTOS from providing input to the architects? Response: Our Town Our Say (OTOS) have been afforded the same opportunity as every other community member in regard to providing feedback to the architects. Under the broad engagement strategy, members of the public are not being ignored in the process of planning for this important community asset. All community members have had opportunities to provide input to Council on a number of occasions throughout the process. Council has heard a wide range of views and takes them all seriously when undertaking its role in making decisions. The establishment of the community engagement groups was based on people and/or groups representing existing users or an area of speciality. These groups were afforded greater access to the architects as they brought with them a significant level of expertise that enabled both Council and the architects to better define the various components of the Mackay Park centre. The latest opportunity to provide input to the architects has been afforded through the recent kiosks and online surveys. This accords with the advice that was provided to you on 5 June 2018. Q2: How do you balance the statement against obvious and intentional exclusion of OTOS members from consultations with NBRS Architecture? Response: There are a number of tiers in which the community is being engaged in the planning process for this important community asset. The three tiers of engagement are: Tier 1 – the creation of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Sunset Committee. Tier 2 – the creation of a number of focus groups based around areas of speciality, including health care, aged care, sport, swimming, business, community associations, arts etc. Tier 3 – broad based access for all members of the community through Council’s website, Council meetings and more recently, kiosks and online surveys. OTOS have the same access as all other members of the community at the Tier 3 level. Q3: Where is the visual evidence in concepts A, B and C from NBRS Architecture, that the stated requirement, to allow for future expansion, has been met? If not visual, what other evidence has been delivered with the successful tender documents and when will this evidence be exposed to the community? Response: NBRS Architecture has provided visual evidence to Council on how a 50 metre pool could be included in all three concepts. This aligns with the requirements of Council and the contract. Q4: If the requirement has not been met, why not? Response: NBRS Architecture have met all of their current contractual obligations, including the possible location of a 50 metre pool, and how it could be included in the future. Q5: Why not build what is needed, and what is obviously affordable now, based on strong community feedback over many years, rather than build what ideologically driven executives within Council think should be provided? Response: The Council, and not an individual councillor or staff member, have collectively and unanimously decided to build a 25 metre pool, along with the other facilities at Mackay Park. Over a considerable period of time, Council has considered all views and concerns expressed by the community and stakeholders regarding the final composition of components that will be delivered to the community at Mackay Park. Having considered the community perspectives; independent professional advice; financial considerations and information obtained from visiting other aquatic facilities and talking with operators of those facilities, the councillors, as they are elected to do, made a determination in regard to the proposed mix of components for the facility. Q6: Why is Council not reconsidering its decision not to include a 50m pool? Response:See response to question 5. Q7: Why is Council not prepared to put it to Eurobodalla ratepayers, that an increase of … “$12 per rateable property per year” is worthwhile and indeed justifiable, in order to renew ageing community infrastructure at Batemans Bay and to maintain a world class aquatic/arts facility, including an Olympic swimming pool, all of which will attract considerably more tourist and resident dollars to the town and the region? Response: Under the funding arrangement protocols, Council is expected to manage the operational costs post project, within existing budgets. As stated in previous correspondence to members of OTOS, the new facility at Mackay Park must, as much as possible, be self-sustaining and not create an unnecessary burden on the ratepayers. Bearing this in mind, and noting that Council has consistently maintained there will be no rate increase to pay for the ongoing support of the facility, there is no change in Council’s position. Q8: How can these figures be reconciled and how reliable are “council spokesperson” attendance figures for: “.. the last 5 years” as recently provided? Response: In preparing both the Business Case (August 2017) and Aquatic Strategy, Otium included reference to potential catchment populations and actual pool usage. The Otium Business Case (page 13) states that Batemans Bay had an average of 23,227 visitors per annum in the five years to 2016. This is correct. In the period from 2011-12 to 2015-16, Batemans Bay had a total of 116,137 visitors, which equates to an average of 23,227 per year. This yearly average is calculated on the total for the five-year period divided by five, not an average per week of operation. Q9: Has the “council spokesperson” used reliable figures when informing the reporter and, given the OTIUM statement of 2017 on accurate usage statistics, is Council now mixing earlier inaccurate figures with more accurate recent ones? Response: Council continues to record accurate pool usage data at all three pools. When Otium were preparing the Business Case and the Aquatic Strategy, Council provided data to inform the research and resulting documents. Q10: May OTOS please have your personal assurance that you strongly support and encourage that intention and stance? Council always attempts to ensure that the information that it is examining and releasing to the public is as accurate as possible. OTOS will be following up on parts of questions not answered and in relation to new questions raised by the response.

#BatemansBay #Community #Opinion #Council

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