Phillips---Banner.png
spreads (5).gif

Presentation: John Mobbs April 30th 2019


Address by Jonathan Mobbs, representing Our Towns Our Say

Good morning Councillors and thankyou for the opportunity to address you today, on “Agenda Item PSR19/007: Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre”

and the attached “Survey Report – March 2019”.

Our Towns Our Say (OTOS) observes that these documents provide a valuable and timely opportunity for everyone to reflect on the process to date. They are also a reminder that it is not too late to make changes to the plans.

William Shakespeare penned these words for Brutus, in his play: “Julius Caesar”:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat.

And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”

I put it to you that you are on a “full sea” now, with $51 million of taxpayer funds in the bank. However, the ship on which you have been sailing since your Extraordinary Meeting of 29 August 2017, trying to repel all boarders, is now shot full of holes, as a result of the recent survey telling you exactly what you did not wish to hear.

Whether or not your ship sinks or runs aground in the shallows, with all hands lost, largely depends now, on your bailing ability. Already we’ve seen the Mayor with her bucket, nervously trying to staunch the flow, via WINNEWS, with a vague statement of what a future Council MIGHT do.

How can anyone commit “a future Council” to do anything at all?

What does it mean, to say that a 50 metre pool has been “future-proofed’?

Councillor Brown was reported on 22 February 2019 as having said:

“We, the Council and not an individual Councillor or staff, have collectively and unanimously decided to build a 25m pool along with the other facilities at Mackay Park……”. Very bold – but very disingenuous, as only 6 out of 9 Councillors were present at that meeting !

You are all aware that the focus of our advocacy to Council has been on the process by which it was decided to omit a 50 metre pool from plans for the future redevelopment of MacKay Park. We know, and you know that we know, that the process commenced with a much earlier and narrower agenda and briefing, put forward by a particular staff member.

In the face of factual engineering information about the ageing condition of the existing pool, did any of you approach the problem from the Community’s viewpoint, by saying, for example:

“the existing pool is reaching the end of life - it is costing us more to maintain each year, so we should take this opportunity to have a larger, modern and more inclusive aquatic centre, as is the trend – but how can we ensure that the Community can continue to enjoy what they have had for the last 50 years?”

Who prepared the briefs for Otium and were you all privy to that process?

How and why was Otium guided to solutions that excluded a 50 metre pool?

Why did you “collectively and unanimously” leap to endorse what we believe were predetermined recommendations of the Otium reports of 2017?

OTOS heard a claim that “no-one wants 50 metre pools any more”. We did your homework for you, by surveying the 128 Councils in NSW and exposing that claim to be a false premise. We did not even get the courtesy of a reply to the information we sent to Council. Again, it was information that you did not wish to see or hear.

There are many Community concerns highlighted by the “Survey Report – March 2019”. Interested viewers and readers may like to turn to the latest illuminating post in The Beagle, for an excellent independent dissection of the report’s findings.

Let me say, on behalf of OTOS, that we were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected transparency of the “warts ’n all” publication of this Survey. No redactions, no confidentiality and no need to resort to the GIPA to obtain information to which the Community is entitled to have access.

Does this mark a turning point in how Council intends to do business in future?

We certainly hope so!

Councillors, It is not too late to rescind or amend Council motion 17/284 of 29 August 2017. Circumstances change – so can decisions.

Will you “lose your venture” and be “bound in shallows and in miseries” due to obstinacy and pride ? – or will you carry the Community with you on an Amazing and Beyond Wonderful aquatic voyage that includes a 50 metre pool?

Because there are so many unanswered questions relating to how you and we arrived at this point, OTOS sent 2, 3, 4 or 5 questions each, to 8 Councillors, last Sunday.

I will table them today, as attachments to my address.

Given the collegiality expressed in Councillor Brown’s statement of 22 February, we anticipate that those 8 Councillors will have convened and conferred already, to ensure that the collective answers are unanimously agreed upon and returned to OTOS within a short time frame.

Thankyou for your attention this morning.

Questions to Councillors

Councillor Rob Pollock OAM

Since one of your fellow Councillors was reported on 22 February 2019 as having said:

“We, the Council and not an individual Councillor or staff, have collectively and unanimously decided to build a 25m pool along with the other facilities at Mackay Park……”, we are asking further questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

  2. Noting that only 7 business days elapsed between the publication of their 81-page report and its formal endorsement by Council, how much time did you have to read and digest it and what briefings were offered to you by Council staff, so that you could fully understood its content, implications and effects?

  3. Were you given an opportunity to debate or question any of the findings or recommendations contained in the Otium Business Case and do you consider that you were subjected to undue time pressure to endorse one of the options in that Business Case?

Councillor Lindsay Brown

Since a report in The Beagle on April 24 relayed WINNEWS video of Councillor Innes, when she stated (referring to pleas from the Community for a replacement 50 metre pool):

“I’m delighted to say that we’ve recognised that and in the next plans that are going to come out to the Community, there is an absolute area that will be shown to them clearly, where a 50 metre pool might be put in, into the future….” we are asking further questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. Noting that the “next plans” referred to by Councillor Innes in the WINNEWS interview will presumably be Option D from NBRS Architecture, following a majority rejection of Options A, B & C, was the Mayor reflecting yet another “collective” and “unanimous” decision of Council (a’ la Councillor Brown’s reported statement of 22 February 2019)?

  2. If the answer to the above question is “Yes” could you please advise when Council made that decision and how many briefing sessions you attended where the architects explained how Option D addresses the multitude of Community misgivings about the new Centre thus far?

  3. If the answer to the above question is “No” do you consider the Councillor Innes’ on screen remarks to be premature and possibly bypassing proper Council business process?

  4. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

Councillor Phil Constable

Noting continued reliance, by the Mayor, on the following figures quoted in PSR17/050 dated 29 August 2017:

“ A 50m pool will cost approximately $6m more to construct and up to $300,000 per annum to operate”…… we are asking additional questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. How much Council or staff effort sought to validate the above figures, including any formal or informal audits, analyses, comparisons or additional professional estimates and how much reliance do you now place on those figures?

  2. Was it brought to your attention that a letter from Hutchinson Builders dated 10 November 2017 estimated that the cost differential, between building a 25 metre pool and 50 metre pool, was more likely to be in the order of only $1 million?

  3. If your answer to the above question is “Yes” was there any discussion within Council about the prudence of investigating such a wide cost disparity?

  4. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

Councillor Jack Tait

Noting recent statements by Councillor Innes and by Director Lindsay Usher, regarding the so-called “future proofing” of a 50 metre pool within the expected new plans for the centre, we are asking additional questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. What do you understand by the term “future proofing” of a 50 metre pool and how does your understanding change anything that has occurred to date, with respect to the aquatic element of the centre?

  2. Are you swayed by the overwhelming public opinion, exposed via the “Survey Report – March 2019”, that there should be a 50 metre pool in the new complex?

  3. If you are not swayed, would you kindly explain why and also what it would take for you to change your mind?

  4. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

Councillor Patrick McGinlay

Noting that Council has advised that it has banked $51 million, being $4.7 million more than originally estimated in a heavily qualified report from the Otium Planning Group, we are asking further questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. Can you advise how much of the $51 million has already been spent on, or committed to preliminary works and planning, such as the geotechnical survey of early 2019 and architects’ fees to date?

  2. Have you been provided with a copy of the geotechnical survey and if so, has it revealed any matters of concern or led to an upwards re-evaluation of future site costs, due to the centre’s proximity to mangrove mudflats and sandy sub-strata?

  3. Noting that it was not a recommendation of the Otium Business Case of August 2017, what was the trigger for Council’s decision to remove the iconic Mini-Golf facility and what is the projected cost to the ratepayers of Eurobodalla Shire? Costs could include payout for any unexpired portion of the lease, loss of future income for the owner/operator and other reasonable but previously unforeseen expenses that will be incurred as a result of Council’s decision.

  4. Given public interest in this element of the MacKay Park redevelopment, will you seek to have such amounts placed on the public record, rather than accede to them being classified as “Commercial-In-Confidence?

  5. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

Councillor James Thomson

We are asking further questions of all Councillors. Our specific questions to you are:

  1. Do you agree with an assessment of the “Survey Report – March 2019” that, even though “Council was not engaging on this issue.”, the message from an overwhelming majority of respondents, was that a 50 metre pool should be included and that a gym should not?

  2. Do you consider that Council should revisit its “collective” and “unanimous” decision of 29 August 2017 not to include a 50 metre pool, since that outcome is clearly not what the local community wanted and expected?

  3. Are you aware of any legal or other impediments to a Council decision to rescind the following Council motion, put and carried on 29 August 2017?

“17/284 MOTION Councillor Pollock/Councillor Thomson

THAT:

1. Council endorse option 1, being the development of a regional aquatic centre, arts and cultural facility and gateway visitor centre, on the southern part of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park precinct for the purpose of seeking grant funding to construct the facility.

2. Council endorse option 1 to inform the detailed planning and design process for the precinct, and to inform the process of seeking to establish a public private partnership, or other procurement process, for the development of the northern part of the precinct.

3. In the detailed planning and design process for the aquatic centre and arts and cultural facility, Council consider the potential to expand the facility, if and when, needed into the future.

4. Council develop a process to ensure ongoing engagement with the community throughout the design and development phases of the facility.

5. Council make a decision on the potential demolition of the former Batemans Bay Bowling Club building once a decision is made on the development of the Mackay Park Precinct.

6. Council thank the members of the Sunset Committee for their work to date in assisting with the early planning stages of the project.”

Councillor Anthony Mayne

Noting that Council has banked $51 million, being $4.7 million more than originally estimated but also noting that the Business Case for the federal funding component has not been made public, for reasons as yet unexplained by either the General Manager or Councillor Innes, we are asking further questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. Will you move to have the Business Case for the final design and development of the MacKay Park precinct made available to the Community BEFORE Council approves a budget for it?

  2. Will you ensure that a competitive, rather than selective tendering process is adhered to, in the interests of transparency and probity and so that the community can be assured of getting the best “bang for buck” as the $51 million is spent?

  3. Will you press for an independent Quality Assurance (QA) expert to be appointed for the term of the construction phase of the new development?

  4. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

Councillor Maureen Nathan

Noting that the MacKay Park redevelopment appears to be on track for construction at the same time as the new traffic bridge across the Clyde River, we are asking additional questions of all Councillors.

Our questions to you specifically are:

  1. Do you believe that the mooted MacKay Park redevelopment can proceed safely and efficiently (from resident, tourist and worker perspectives), concurrently with the expected new traffic bridge activity in the immediate precinct?

  2. At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 29 August 2017 did you vote alongside fellow Councillors, not to include a 50 metre pool within either of the options put forward by the Otium Planning Group as part of their Business Case, dated 17 August 2017?

The questions are now placed on the public record.

#Opinion #Council

COMMENTS : You can use a pen name or better yet use your real name, you must provide a valid email address (that does not get published) and your comment will be moderated prior to approval (or rejection if that is the determination of the moderator). Refer to our Terms and Conditions if you have any questions) 

Please note that from time to time comments are archived. If you are looking for a previous comment no longer visible please contact us. Last Archived 7th July 2019