Welcome to the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic and Arts Leisure Emergency Evacuation Centre (BBRAALEEC) An open letter to Councillors re Mackay Parking ...or should that be Porking? The Beagle Editor
It seems Council’s decision at the 25 February meeting was to acknowledge identified sources of additional funding for the Mackay Park development should the existing grants and loans, totalling some $55 million, be insufficient. This decision, with comments elsewhere in media, prompted a reflection and the following observations and questions.
The old bowling club site was purchased in early 2016 with some fanfare publicity about a "gateway development for the shire" yet this blighted, over-priced, largely useless site has dropped out of consideration for the current proposed complex. Will this waste of money ever be explained?
Another confusing follow-on in the saga, among many non-sequiturs, is that it continues to be called the "Batemans Bay" Regional AALC, not the "Eurobodalla" Regional AALC. I don't think this means we should still expect a gateway development on the old bowlo site but I do wonder why, if it continues to be called the Batemans Bay etc. should the rest of the shire be expected to also pay for it when rates inevitably have to go up – subject to the confidential business case (is there one?) showing otherwise, of course. The worry is that some in council perhaps seem to think the current low interest rate climate is an invitation to beg or borrow more than good sense should dictate. Maybe these political expedients and economic rationalists see there are funding opportunities for extra filling for the big hole in Mackay Park the from the bushfire recovery monies by changing its name to BBRAALEEC i.e. EE=Emergency Evacuation. It's not the funds needed to build the place that are the whole issue - the ongoing costs of ownership and operation are ultimately the real "crunchers". If that isn't the case, councillors let us all see the business case that shows otherwise before you spend any more of our money.
Since early 2017, when the first consultant's initial, but incomplete, business case was submitted, the stance taken by council has been that it was definitely unaffordable to have an Olympic size pool or a decent size performance space in the development. Since then, other sensible features like a creche have been eliminated and exhibition space is reduced "to save costs" but the gym area is enlarged. Now the shire is about to lose the iconic rent-paying, tourist-attracting Mini Golf because there's no room for it in the complex or for that matter, no room either for any promised expansion.
Above: a confidential comment (in italics) accidentally published in Council's February 25th 2020 agenda reveals inside knowledge that the Mini Golf have no intention to set up elsewhere in the shire.
If capital funding is no longer the insurmountable issue as was acknowledged by your vote last Tuesday, councillors, please give us our replacement Olympic pool, and the performance space for the future growth, and the creche and other eliminated niceties, including the Mini Golf, needed to attract the maximum number of paying patrons into the future.
What say you, councillors? How about a pause to any more expenditure on this shambolic project until after the next election, only months away now, when we might have someone there with some back bone and civic and commercial nous?
Jeff de Jager
Above; The compounding secrecy around the newly badged BBRAALEEC, the failure of Council to reveal a full business case, the continued confidentiality that even sees Council fail to advise even their own Sunset Committee, the fact that a DA has not been approved and that a public hearing is to be held before hand; all rests poorly on an outgoing Council who has failed from the start to truthfully include the wider community and to act above reproach. This outgoing council is desperate to turn a sod, to claim a victory for the project, however the fiscal legacy it will leave and the compromise of amenity it offers will sit sour in the minds of ratepayers for years to come as they realise the are feeding a porker with an unending appetite for community funds.