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Editorial May 31st 2019

Tensions are building around Council's proposed $51m Mackay Park project with revelations that there is still no finalised plan that shows dimensions and reflects the considerable feedback from the community to the concept designs offered to date. The revelation that over $1m has been spent to date in consultant fees to draft up designs and a loose and now outdated business plan has not gone down well with the community. Nor has the continued intent of the Council to sell off the Batemans Bay Community Centre to contribute further to what appears to be a mounting blowout in both costings and operation costs. With no publicly available projected incomes or overheads and with no design at hand the cost of the proposed aquatic centre with its 350 seat theatre remains unknown. What is known however is that the community are not at all happy with the fact that Council appears to be going head-first into an area that it has very little expertise in and what was born out of a desire for a hydrotherapy pool and an arts/market/performance space has become a monster that is steadily coming undone as the community learn more of the details (or the lack thereof) This week Council heard solid presentations around the proposed McKay Park Aquatic Arts Centre and it was clear from the furrowed brows and shifting in chairs that councillors were not on top of the financial details of the project. These same councillors will be the ones who are required to review the final business case and sign off that it is sound and will not place undue long term burden on the community. "At the last business forum I also asked if a business case could be furnished to enable informed input. The Council officer running the forums said that he would consider this and see if he could provide the business case in confidence to the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber. The architects in the forum then interjected and said there was no business case, though there was a list of potential users. So, the architects had just told us that they had been designing a significant centre without a business case. Those present were gobsmacked by this revelation." David MacLachlan - Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism

Much of the General Manager's response to this motion focuses on offsetting the new Arts Centre costs with Batemans Bay Community Centre costs. This rationale signifies the change of use of the new Arts centre to more of an inevitable replacement for the Batemans Bay Community Centre.

In his address to Council in regards to their intention to relocate the present Community Centre to the Aquatic Arts Centre Mr MacLachlan said "I do not believe the people of the Shire will reconcile the new Arts centre becoming a glorified community centre. The community expects Council to provide what they set out to provide, and that is an iconic arts facility which would provide significant entertainment and not be a white elephant."

Flying in the face of Council around this project remains the fact that they adopted an Aquatic Strategy prepared by a consultant with no community input that declared the 50m Narooma would be the only 50m pool in the Shire. No consultation, no discussion... simply the endorsement by Councillors of a single line item in a complex report that they agreed to when they adopted the initial design for Batemans Bay to only have a 25m pool. The fight has only just begun and Council is now in full damage control trying to still the waters as Councillors now begin their electioneering in readiness for the upcoming Council election in 2020.

Opinion: The shire's councillor bus is fast loosing community confidence as it approaches the "White Elephant" that will become a major election issue for Mayor Innes and the others should they proceed with forcing their concepts on the community without revealing true costs and projected losses.

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