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Council called out for failing to tell the whole truth around the future of the Narooma Pool

In a presentation by Beagle Editor, Lei Parker, delivered to Eurobodalla Councillors in Public Forum prior to the Ordinary Meeting Of Eurobodalla Shire Council Held On Tuesday 26 November 2019

The editor of the Beagle opened his presentation to the Public Forum saying "Councillors, your Public Forum has become a farce and you should hang your collective heads in shame. It is tokenism of public engagement at its worst and it is by your hand." "Under the new rules for Public Forum you have now received a written copy of my presentation delivered to you yesterday after noon.

"I would expect, out of respect and by your civic duty, you have read it and have questions at the ready.

"Rather than read my presentation out, word for word for the next seven minutes I will offer a brief overview.

"Had live-streaming of Public Forum sessions not been removed I would have happily presented to the wider community however, as no-one is watching, nor this being recorded for the community to watch at a later date I offer my apologies to the gallery and advise that my full presentation is now on line for the community to read on The Beagle for their interest.

"Basically the Narooma Sport And Leisure Precinct Draft Plan Of Management is flawed and has failed to fully inform yourselves or the Crown around matters such as the physical condition of the Narooma 50m pool and the observations and recommendations of the now endorsed Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy which states:

Whilst some facilities are in reasonable condition (or new, as per the splash pad constructed in 2018/19), others are reaching the end of their useful life and forward planning for new buildings and plant are needed through the life of the Plan of Management.

"In fact there is no mention of this Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy in this Draft Plan of Management and, as such, the intentions of that Strategy are not being communicated to the public, councillors or the Crown.

Mr Parker continued "The Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy states that the Narooma pool should remain as the principle 50m pool of the shire yet the same document also indicates that the retention of a 50m pool in Narooma is not financially sustainable and, as such, modifications may need to be made, as have been to Batemans Bay, to reconfigure the water spaces to accommodate Leisure activities to make it more economically viable.

Whilst the co-location of aquatic facilities with other elements (eg health and fitness, wellness, retail and food and beverage) support a centre to better maximise its viability, once the proposed new Batemans Bay Leisure Centre is developed it is highly unlikely Council will be able to meet the capital and operational funding required to upgrade its other pools to this level.

"The Strategy identifies the Narooma Pool as being in poor condition and subject to movement being on a flood zone.

Geotechnical investigation into foundation and subgrade movement and the integrity of the pool shell at Narooma Swimming Centre needs to be undertaken. Subject to the outcome of this investigation, the repair or replacement of the existing 50m pool may be required. The timing of these works will be subject to the outcome of the engineering investigation

"The Narooma Sport And Leisure Precinct Draft Plan Of Management fails to advise that unless grant money or increases in rates are set in place Council presently can not afford the estimated $20m to replace it.

"Council endorsed the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy to retain the Narooma 50m pool yet have allocated no funds for either major repair in the short term nor its replacement.

Reading from his notes Mr Parker said "Of the Narooma Swimming Centre the Draft Plan Of Management recommends:

- Internal and external modernisation and renovation of the Swimming Centre buildings - Preparation of a business case / feasibility study to provide enhanced aquatic, community health and fitness facilities, including the revisioning of the Swimming Centre to include: i) food and beverage facilities to service pool patrons and other visitors. ii) pool equipment and facility upgrades

It also states as an action:

The Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management - Implementation Action Plan calls for a feasibility study / business case to be developed.

Emphatically he said "Councillors, if you endorse this Plan then you also endorse this action."

"Note that the endorsed 2017 Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy already offers guidance on the financial viability of the Narooma Pool stating:

All three of Council’s swimming centres are operating at a deficit with Batemans Bay and Moruya generating annual deficits of between $111,018 - $139,020 over the past two years.

The Narooma Swimming Centre has generated recent operating deficits of $370,765 and $378,222, resulting in a 2015/16 subsidy per user visit of $7.60

By way of comparison, based on comparing the estimated 2016 Narooma Pool catchment population of 8,077 against the Group 7 Indoor Pools catchment where total visitation of 71,078 could be achieved.

On this basis Narooma Pool is performing substantially below expectations.

In finishing he said "So it appears that Council, by way of this Draft Plan and by way of the adopted Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy are prepared to commit to retaining the 50m pool in Narooma, replacing it at an estimated cost of $20m, expanding the facility to include gyms, cafes and leisure facilities knowing that their own Strategy indicates this is economically unviable and unaffordable."

Above: Narooma have a Lotto Chance in Hell of keeping their 50m pool when it comes to being replace according to the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy rationale

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