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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Just tack on a whole Community Centre to the BBAALC - Going Forward

Things aren't as wonderful, exciting or moving forward as the Mayor might continue to suggest. The Batemans Bay Foreshore Committee has disbanded having achieved little other than to agree where new litter bins are to be place, hogtied by secrecy and blinkered with being told they were bound by very restrictive borders that excluded 95% of the Batemans Bay foreshore. It is understood that many of it members (who remain secretly unknown) left on a sour note because very few, if any, of the inputs they offered were considered leaving them to feel they were manipulated as a box-ticking exercise in community engagement. The issues around the financial impact of the new bridge to the Batemans Bay business community have not been addressed and requests for more information on a traffic study promised by Council of the consequences of directing ALL traffic into the CBD via North Street has resulted in naught. Meanwhile the animosity that exists between Council and the Batemans Bay Chamber builds as the Chamber continues to assert its perspective around Council decisions that appear to carry neither sound business acumen nor evidence of expertise. Added to this the Sunset Committee for Mackay Park has all but disbanded as Council chose to ignore their concerns and inputs and engage instead in wider community inputs via information kiosks and surveys which has now resulted in Council spending over $1m in consultant fees yet still having neither a plan of the proposal or a business plan that even hints at how much the final cost will be let alone forecast projected incomes and overheads. All of this wasted energy, the countless meetings, the fact that the Sunset Committee were bound to secrecy. And the fact that it has resulted in nothing indicates the complete breakdown of Council's engagement process remembering that the Sunset Committee for Mackay Park that was established to assist Eurobodalla Shire Council with "the investigation of opportunities for the development of the precinct. and to "develop and oversee the community engagement process during the investigation of opportunities for the development of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park precinct representing the broader interests of the Eurobodalla community." Based on the feedback and the resignations from that committee that they too felt it was a box-ticking exercise with inputs rarely listened to resulting in Council doing as it pleased. There is little wonder that the community engagement exercise around the Mackay Park project, the information kiosks, the forums, the surveys and requests for submissions will all result in Council pressing ahead to do as it wants anyway. Now bring into the mix Council's ongoing intention to sell off the Batemans Bay community centre to help pay for either the capital costs of the new Makay Park project or its unknown running costs. Councillor Anthony Mayne, in presenting a 1000 plus petition on behalf of the community to call a halt to Council's intention to sell off Community Centre has resulted in some kneejerk assurities by the Mayor that none of the 112 community groups who use the "vibrant community centre" will be put out inviting them to come across, if they choose and use the new Mackay Park facilities. Now we come down to what to call the Mackay Park facility as it appears that it will have many functions Formally it is called the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre however Council have left out the "Regional" in most of their communications and colloquially call it the Batemans Bay Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre with the acronym of BBAALC So it will be a Regional centre - it needed to be called that to attract Grants from the State and Federal Regional Growth Funds. The aquatic centre will replace the existing 50-metre outdoor pool with multiple, purpose-built aquatic space. A Regional pool for regional sports? No. Council has said that the Regional 50m pool will be at Narooma and the Batemans Bay Pool will be a multiple, purpose-built aquatic space. Council describes it on their website as "an aquatic centre with a 25-metre, ten-lane pool with ramp access, separate 10m warm-water therapy pool and spa, freeform indoor leisure pool that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area, and amenities." What of the Arts? Council describes that on their website as "an arts and cultural centre with a large flexible, flat floor auditorium with retractable seating for up to 500 people, dressing rooms, green room and storage, gallery/exhibition space and storage, rehearsal/ dance studio/ music room, ‘wet’ arts workshop space and storage (for pottery, painting, etc), ‘dry’ arts workshop space and storage (for drawing, textiles, etc), meeting and multi-purpose rooms and amenities." The Leisure bit is described as "shared facilities including a foyer, café, visitor information service and associated retail" The community have looked at the concept plans to date and have noticed that the proposed meeting and multi-purpose rooms are not at all reflective of the existing facilities and space of the current Batemans Bay Community Centre. On asking for more information on sizes, hiring fees, availability and accessibility to the proposed meeting rooms Council has been unable to respond. What is becoming clear however is that the Mayor and Council staff have the opinion that the newly proposed meeting and multi-purpose rooms will offer the same, if not more, by comparison to the existing to caope with an expanding population with expanding needs. With the current Community Centre servicing 112 groups and Council's intent to move them to the new centre there comes a new addition to the naming of the project to reflect the primary use of the facility The Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts, Leisure ..... and Community Centre. So there we have it. A $51m project that has no plans, no business case, noses out of joint across the whole community and a Council hell bent on Going Forward with Councillors left in the dark, knee jerk decisions being made to buy out the Mini Golf lease, a refusal to accept any criticism or informed industry input and a mounting doubt that the site which is sitting on a sand base with a high water table, adjacent to a mangrove swamp in an area identified as susceptible to Sea Level rise beside a five lane highway in an industrial corridor on a town bypass. And what of the current Community Centre ? Council have classified it Operational and it, like the adjacent Museum will most likely be sold so that seniors accommodation to 15m (as approved by the zoning) can be built returning monies to the coffers of Council to pay for the unexpected blowout of their new White Elephant on the other side of town. It is of little wonder that members of the community are pleading with councillors to STOP and THINK before they dig themselves any deeper.

What is the Mackay Park centre? - it started with a pool that revealed itself as a 25m pool to replace the town's 50m pool. It then added a 500 seat auditorium but then pared that back to 350. Next came the Information Centre and Gallery that they paired back to a booth and a room the size of a cupboard then, to op it all off with the prize cock-up they declared they would sell the town's community centre and replace it with a meeting room that came with a bonus cupboard.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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