Maureen Searson Presentation - Agenda Item Psr19/007
Good morning councillors. Thank you for this opportunity. Firstly, I’d like to thank the council for the substantial and informative Mackay Park Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre concept Survey Report kindly made public before today’s meeting by The Beagle Online Editor. I would like to comment on two points raised in the Survey Report. The first point is that "Council has previously made the decision about the 50m pool after considering community views and independent professional advice, not to include a 50m pool in the proposed development. Whilst this may not be agreeable to some members of the community, Council has been clear as to the reasons for this. It is essential that the development meets the broadest needs of the community and that the proposed development be affordable."
Firstly we know the views of the Public Schools Sporting Association, the local Surf Life Saving Clubs, the largest pool user the Batemans Bay Swimming Club and regular pool users were not considered at all in the decisions and planning of the MPAA&LC. In fact councillors may not be aware, but after the release of concept plans some stakeholders withdrew their support for the Mackay Park project because in seeking endorsement from these groups, Council withheld critical information that a 50m pool was not in the plans. As the Survey Report correctly states the decision to replace the 50m pool with a 25m pool was made by Eurobodalla Council.
Council has not been at all clear at all about the reasons for not including a 50m pool. We know from the public submissions in the survey report that it was not because the community did not want a 50m pool. In relation to the “unaffordability” of a 50m pool, Council has yet to justify Otium’s figure of $6.5 million extra in capital costs and $300,000 extra in running costs for a 50m pool. Despite the Member for Bega Andrew Constance instruction to Mayor Innes, at a meeting in Batemans Bay in November 2017, Council has still not made public the costings for a 10 lane 25m pool. Community feedback in the Survey Report is clear, the facility without a 50m pool is not meeting the broadest needs of the community.
Secondly is Council’s acceptance of Otium’s claim of “a limited market for 50m pools” to justify not including a 50m pool. My colleague John Mobbs referred to a 2018 survey that OTOS conducted of 128 councils across NSW. Contrary to the claim of there being a “limited market for traditional 50m pools” OTOS found the opposite. Across NSW councils there are 192x 25m pools and 176 x 50m pools. That is a difference of only 16 more 25m pools. Some council’s have both an indoor 25m pool and an outdoor “traditional” 50m pool. This is hardly ‘no market’ for traditional 50m pools.
OTOS has it on good authority that the visitor numbers for Batemans Bay pool have increased by 50%. Already this year there has been, on a regular basis, up to 100 people using the pool at one time including lap swimmers and aqua class participants. Councillors how can Council justify a 25m pool?
To demonstrate the importance of 50m pools here is one of the submission comments - “my experience teaching children who only have 25m to swim, didn’t have the stamina to compete with kids who swim in 50m pools. They competed at Regional Carnivals but fell short. 50m is essential for all child swimmers for safety reasons.” The truth of this statement is born out for adults water safety in the 2018 National Coastal Safety Report that found that 64% of adults cannot swim 50m in the ocean.
Councillors, you are being asked to vote for a concept plan and financial analysis to be developed for the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (Concept D) which apparently has space outdoor for a 50m pool. Mayor Innes’s public statement, pre empting the Survey Report release, that a 50m pool MIGHT be possible but would be left to the next council is not good enough. Please consider $26 million from the sale of a NSW public asset, the poles and wires, is contributing to the construction of the MPAA&LC. Yet without a 50m pool you, and for that matter, the Member for Bega Andrew Constance, are asking people who have helped pay for the MPAA&LC to accept being excluded from using it.