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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Has Eurobodalla Council been caught out undercutting local gyms for the tourist dollar?

The new Bay Pavilion plans look terrific. The images look awesome. Enough for us all to get excited about. A new pool. A hydrotherapy pool. A big Splash Pad, a Water slide. A Café. A brand new gym and best of all a very smart looking theatre with an art gallery foyer that has a nest of rooms for meetings and for hire. To top it all off there will be a large entrance that has over a quarter of a million dollars of public art. That is enough to excite anyone. I’m keen. In readiness for the Grand Opening of the $70 million facility Eurobodalla Council is now advertising their proposed entrance fees. Hopefully they are affordable. Let’s have a look. Adult swim is $7.00 and kids $5.00 – a bit pricey but fortunately they have a family price (2 adults and 2 kids) of $22.00 – if the grandparents want to come and watch they will have to pay an extra $2.50 each. So we all decide to go to the pool and agree that two hours is long enough before fingers get wrinkly and grandparents get bored. Bobbing around in the 25m pool as a family is nice, but the kids see the Splash Pad and the water slide and want some of that action as well. That will cost another $9 for a two hour pass for the kids and if they need parental supervision you can add another $13 for each parent. So now we have a family of four with grandparents as spectators at the pool for two hours with the kids going back and forth from the pool to the splashpad and the water slide. Total cost $22 + $2.50 + $2.50 + $9 + $9 + $13 for the adult supervisor on the waterslide. All up $58 for two hours of aqua fun. Feeling inspired with the whole aquatic experience you might think it would be good to come and do some laps, attend a water class or even signup for some gym classes. The brand new 1000m2 gym looks pretty wow with all its brand new state of the art machinery. Council has worked out those gym fees for you as well in their proposed fees now up for community comment. But be patient. We haven't left the pool yet. Not sure you want to sign up quite yet ? But you want to dip a toe in the water? At the new 25m Bay Pavilion pool it will only cost you $15 each visit to become a member of a swim squad if you want to get keen and swim some laps with your new crew. If that is too much, too soon, you could just swim laps at $7 per swim (or $6 per swim with a 10 swim pass) casual rate until you decide to commit. If you want to dabble in an aquarobics class before, or after your swim then Council have made that affordable at an additional $14 each session. Fortunately, to save you time and the need to carry coin with you Council offers that you pay a Once-off Aquatic membership application fee of $60 and, once you have signed up you can direct debit $48 per month (every month of the year) for your Aquatics Membership Monthly DD Membership Fee (Adult). BUT the aqua programs remain an add-on. But maybe you aren’t the getting-wet type and just want to go to the gym. That will only cost you $17 per visit until you establish if you want to commit to becoming a member. If you do then Council has you covered with a One-off joining fee of $60.00 and followed by a direct debit deduction of just $67.20 per month. All the prices above are aimed at locals who Council hopes will use the facilities regularly. Council have a nice little add on for “casual” users to make them feel special. They call it the Gym Adult - 7 Day Promotion Pass for $30.00 - Grinning when you compare that to the other local gyms who have 7 day passes for $50. One thing we are all hungering for is the theatre. Council have built a 350 seat theatre and, as we know, “if you build it they will come”. As to what shows will come is unknown. The other interesting element of this is that we don’t actually know who is in charge of booking acts. Most likely Council will just ask touring acts to ring them if they need a venue. The numbers are interesting when you look at them for the theatre. Let’s use the Red Door Theatre Company based in Moruya as an example. The Red Door puts on a few plays per year (in normal times). Moruya, Broulee, Narooma, Tilba. But not yet Batemans Bay. So maybe they might perform at our new theatre. It will only cost them $700 for the event if they set up and clean up in one day. They will need to have Council staff present to turn on and off lights, lock up, check things are going OK. Council has this covered with a fee of $600 for Staff Hire (full staffing, 4 hours). Total so far is just $1300 upfront to put on the show. Now to sell the show out. A full house of 350 seats at $20 per seat minus Council’s $2 booking fee will return a hefty $6300 for the company….. if they sell out. That should cover the $1500 or so of insurance to be paid to cover the show, and help to pay for the materials and paints for the props. It might even help pay for the costumes. With a full house the Red Door Company might actually come out OK. But alas the speculation of a full house is a daydream. Let’s look at Council’s Business Case for the theatre. By their own business case they tell us that they estimate it will make, on average, $300,000 per year. They also say they expect the expenditure for the theatre to be, on average, $600,000 per year. Even before they open the doors Council is telling us they plan to lose $300,000 a year on the theatre, before a single bum is on a seat. In their business case for the theatre they say that they anticipate 38,720 users to visit the theatre complex in Year 1 going out to 43,340 by Year 10. With simple maths that equates to 110 sold out (350 seat max.) performances per year paying an average of $7.29 per ticket. Yet the proposed fees that Council is exhibiting say “Entrepreneurial Program - Average, full ticket price $35.00” The above might seem absurd but these figures and projections are from Council’s own Business Case. So who will be booking the acts? Council or the Bay Pavilion contract management? Council has told us they expect 12 acts per year. The venue presents a theatre/ event season (entrepreneurial program) consisting of 12 productions over 12 months”. If these figures look rubbery then it might pay to look at the other figures in Council’s Business Case. Council tell us that the Aquatic Centre is expected to have 150,153 visitors in Year 1. That is 411 every single day of the year. Council tells us in their business case that those 150,153 visitors to the aquatic centre will inject $1,611,168 of income but on the same page of their business case they reveal it will cost them $2,149,291 in Year 1 just to have the pools functioning. The gym figures are equally interesting. The Council business case tells us they expect $340,558 income in the first year though, in that same year they note expenditure in the Gym of $441,765. Good thing they expect 34,496 visitors in Year 1 otherwise the projected losses would have been even more. For the 94 users per day to the gym that Council suggests in their business case they will either be able to casually visit (holiday makers, transient workers) for $17 per visit or they could join for a one-off joining fee of $60 and pay $67.20 per month (Direct debited). For those who aren’t interested in the clanking of iron and prefer classes the monthly fee for Health and Fitness - Monthly DD Membership Fee (Adult) is $62.40. For those holiday makers keen to join it it will be $15.00 per class session or you can buy a 10-pass for $125.00. Oddly this price is just $5 more that a competitor offers for a 10 visit pass. Yet for them are innumerable overheads to meet whereas the Council gym is, as Council says itself "We are running the facility, and our other facilities such as libraries pools etc as a service to the community, so when we say net cost it is actually a service we are delivering across the board so the more people that use it, the more beneficial [net cost] that is". The gym figures above are of considerable interest to the other seven gym operators in the Batemans Bay area. Unlike Council, those operators have to pay rent, utilities, maintenance and renewal of equipment, insurances and advertising before they can even open their doors. Once opened they have to pay staff, accountants and all the ancillaries required to run a business. Meantime Council covers all of those costs via the ample purse of ratepayers. It is hardly a level playing field. Any shortfall by Council is of little consequence as staff have no "skin in the game". The Bay Post reports “The owners of seven Batemans Bay gyms have hit out at Eurobodalla Council's draft fees and charges for the new Bay Pavilions fitness centre.

They claim the proposed pricing structure will undercut the area's existing gym businesses by at least 40 per cent.” The report says that the Bay gyms claim council will be in breach of Section 45 of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act which prohibits contracts from lessening competition in a market. A quick look at various local gym websites reveals that Council clearly intends to undercut the Casual Gym market (enjoyed by our many holiday makers and considered the vital cream for local businesses) by offering a Gym Adult - 7 Day Promotion Pass for $30 while other gyms offer the same 7 day pass to visitors for $50. Where a local gym charges $16 for classes Council’s proposal is to undercut this and charge $15. Adding further insult the Council intends to charge a monthly gym membership of $67.20 (Direct Debit) undercutting one gym in Batemans Bay by $32.80 per month.

Ordinary Meeting of Eurobodalla Council Date: 24 August 2021

Debate during CAR21/016 Fees and Charges - Operating the Bay Pavilions

Published Under MOU with Eurobodalla Shire Council Creative Commons Attribution

NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.

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So will council be in breach of Section 45 of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act?

Is Council a Corporation – No, however under Sect 220 of the LG Act a law of the State applies to a council.

So, the question is: Is Eurobodalla making a contract or arrangement, or arrive at an understanding, if a provision of the proposed contract, arrangement or understanding has the purpose, or would have or be likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition; or

(b) give effect to a provision of a contract, arrangement or understanding, if that provision has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition; or

(c) engage with one or more persons in a concerted practice that has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition. What is very clear from the figures revealed in Council’s business case is that they are well aware that the facility will be facing a financial loss that will need to be covered by the ratepayer. Any difference between what they charge at the turnstyle will be ratepayer subsidised from the public purse. How to give your feedback Closing date for submissions: Wednesday 22 September 2021, 4.00pm

To make a submission during the exhibition period, you can:

  • write a letter addressed to: The General Manager PO Box 99 Moruya NSW 2537

  • email


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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