Is Council's dream of a regional leisure park and cultural centre unravelling?

The Batemans Bay Regional Leisure and Cultural Centre project appears to be coming apart at the seams, even before the first sod is turned. From day one the project has been under the spotlight for its sworn to secrecy committee meetings, its manipulation of letters of endorsement supporting the removal of the 50m pool, the gross failures in genuine community consultation, the blocking of Information requests around grant applications and the outrageous behind closed doors decisions by Council and Councillors that has left a very sour, and distrusting note in anything related to the project. In recent weeks we have learnt that the theatre element of the project is embroiled in the NSW Arts Rorts that saw the unofficial granting of $8m to the project from the Regional Cultural Fund a good six months ahead of Round 2 submission closures and winning announcements. The project is little more than a replacement of a 50m pool with a 25m pool. There is little of any Regional significance in that. Certainly not enough to warrant it being called the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre.

The so called 'Regional' facility also includes a warm water therapy pool in their design to further qualify for Regional status and source further funding however the final pool design they have on offer is grossly inadequate and well short of the hydrotherapy pool that has been long sought for the region. At only chest deep the undersized pool will be located adjacent to the kiddies learn to swim pool. With the announcement of $200m now set aside for the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital, most likely located in Moruya more and more of the community in the south of the shire believe that a REGIONAL hydrotherapy pool SHOULD be located in proximity to the hospital and designed for the role it will play in recovery therapy and health. The next contentious element of the Regional Leisure Centre is the splash pool that Council says will be a major tourism draw card. The region already has such splash pads readily available to the public (with fee) including a recent install at the Narooma Pool that brings into question whether the splash pad is for Batemans Bay residents and visitors or actually qualifies as a Regional facility. The most disappointing issue around the splashpad is that it came as an afterthought, added at the whim of Queensland consultants, to be a 'drawcard'. There was already a public inclusive splashpad under discussion for the Variety Park at Corrigans Beach. Council was presented with a petition containing 800 signatures for the inclusion of a Water Pad in the revised Corrigans Beach Reserve Plan of Management. The petition was accompanied by a balanced argument why the proposed splashpad would not compete with the council staff proposed water theme park at Mackay Park development and importantly, that it would benefit children with a disability noting that such activities will not be not accessible at Mackay Park. Much to the surprise of many the vision of a splash pool as part of the highly successful Corrigans Reserve Variety Park appears to now be canned by Council's determination to have a monopoly facility in their proposed aquatic centre. Council staff have now decided against the wishes of your constituents to oppose the proposed Water Pad at Corrigans Reserve as follows: -

Excerpt - Hanging Rock, Corrigans Beach and Observation Point Reserves

Consultation Summary Report - May 2020

It is noted that a petition was also received in support of the water splash pad to be included within the play space area. Whilst there is space available for this activity, Council staff advise that this type of facility will be included within the proposed Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park. In addition, given the high cost and level of resourcing required for day to day and long term management of water based facilities (such as regular water quality testing), the need for a similar facility at this location is not currently supported in the related Schematic Plan. It is important to note however, from the Council statement above that automatic water testing and chemical additions can be built into the filtration system (as they have across the country) and that the proposed facilities are not in any way similar as per the following petition extracts below: -

PAGE 1 - The revision of the Plan of Management for Corrigans Reserve, Batehaven is imminent and community support exists for the provision of a ‘Splashpad’ adjacent to the recently completed and highly successful Varity Inclusive Playground. The Splashpad is designed to appeal to all levels of ability and will be free to all and compliment the inclusive elements available at Corrigans Reserve.

SIGNED PAGES - This petition of residents and businesses of eurobodalla shire seeks to include provision for a kiddies low-impact splashpad, adjacent to the existing variety inclusive playground within the plan of management for corrigans reserve, batehaven, due first half 2019 It is most unfortunate that the Council have now taken a dogmatic view that their REGIONAL facility will have a REGIONAL splashpad that WILL NOT be inclusive nor adjacent to other inclusive facilities including a purpose built inclusive ammenities block. It now appears that Council are intent on denying the disadvantaged because of an erroneously perceived view that a water park at Mackay Park will make money. This unfortunately is, again, another example of council staff thinking that they know what's best for the community.

Five months before this momentous decision, at the Ordinary Council Meeting 28 March 2017, Charles Stuart of Bay Push (Variety Park) made a presentation to Councillors regarding the future of the Corrigans Reserve Inclusive Playground that included a splash pool Mr Stewart reminded the Councillors that in 2013 his organisation prepared a Community Business Plan that sought to provide an inclusive playground .

He said "The plan centred on an inclusive playground and tourist precinct at Corrigans Reserve comprising a number of stages designed to give families, a 'free of charge', leisure area and an attraction that would bring tourists to our shire from our neighbours in Canberra."

"The Community Business plan was tabled at a Council forum held in 10 March 2014, and whilst it was not formally approved by councillors, it was warmly accepted"

"Now I move to current times (March 2017). At the playground opening on the 4 March this year, I was handed a copy of a funding proposal by the Director of Infrastructure Services, a copy of which I have emailed councillors together with the Community Business Plan I mentioned before.

At that time, I was advised that this had NOT been referred to the General Manager, the Mayor or Councillors prior to submission.

The grant application includes funding for:

  1. Playground completion,

  2. Rebuilding the seaside carpark at Corrigans,

  3. Construction of an accessible path and viewing platform at Observation Point.

All very commendable, but lastly and devastatingly:

4. A concreted labyrinth of roadways to house the fortnightly Sunday markets adjacent to the playground.

And this is the hub of my address today.

This plan prevents any further stages of a play and tourist precinct at Corrigans reserve.

"When asking about the future of a Splash Park next to the playground, I was informed that council was going to build a large water park at the aquatic centre at Mackay Park comprising a tipping water bucket and slides. This is news to The Mackay Park Sunset Advisory Committee, who have made no firm decisions at this stage."

I am in support of quality markets, but in reality, it can be sited at a number of more suitable locations. The one that springs to mind is Mackay Park, Batemans Bay, a site that would attract passing traffic on the Princes Highway or at Corrigans Reserve in front of where the annual fair is held. However, this is not my role.

"What is the greatest concern to me and others, is that council staff are making decisions without community consultation. We have two sunset advisory committees, one for Corrigans Reserve and one for Mackay Park."

Neither of these committees have been approached with the details of the funding proposal and the plans contained there-in.

In conclusion, I request a meeting of the Corrigans Reserve Sunset Advisory Committee be held in the near future, to properly plan the future for development at Corrigans reserve in strict conformity with the community consultation outcomes.

Charles Stuart The Bay Push 28 March 2017 Let's look at that Council cost of $1.1m and ask how much a splash pool costs other councils. Below are the costings and projected income for a 200 square metre splash park to be constructed at the Bacchus Marsh Outdoor Pool.

From the Splash Park Feasibility Study - Moorabool Council 3.11 Costs and Components Probable capital costs An opinion of the average costs of providing splash parks are as follows: $225,000 - 50 sq metre pad only $300,000 - 100 sq metre pad incl. ground sprays only $500,000 - 200 sq metre pad incl. 30 plus features Excludes landscaping and concept design. Plant components • Plant Room shed • Sand Filters • Commercial pumps (filtrations and features) • Liquid chlorine and acid dosing system • Concrete in ground balance tank (approx. 18,000 litres) • Manifold and solenoid valves for feature control • Electrical switchboard and wiring • Pipework Nature of Materials Nature of material typically include: • Concrete apron – 350 mm thick • Stainless steel water features Operations The cost of operations are on average $7,000-$8,000 per month (incl. some staff cost). These costs include: • Water • Electricity (Circulation pump and features pumps) • Staffing (Backwashing, water testing, cleaning) • Staff Training • Cleaning (Pressure washing surface, surrounds) • Rubbish Removal 27 • Grounds maintenance • Water testing (Minimum daily, Best Practice 4 hourly) • Chemicals (Chlorine, Acid/CO2) • Repair and maintenance (Quarterly service of pumps and dosing equipment) • Insurance • Marketing • Security Additional Revenue Based on attendances at other district size splash parks, it is estimated that there could be up to 5,000 additional visitations to the Bacchus Marsh Outdoor Pool per season, if a splash park was installed. These visits would approximately generate an additional gate revenue of $12,900 per season if children were charged to use the facility. This revenue could be used to offset the additional staffing costs associated with commencing the pool season in November and opening the pool earlier on warmer days to allow maximum usage of the splash pad. The capital cost of splash parks vary depending on the size, number of features and the support facilities built with the splash park, such as toilets, shade and BBQ facilities. A district size splash park built in conjunction with existing facilities can be built for around $500,000. A review of the operations of splash parks has highlighted a range of differing operating costs. Splash parks located with existing aquatic facilities and maintained mainly by on-site aquatic staff can cost as little as $1,500 per month to manage. Assuming that items such as insurance, marketing, security, and rubbish removal are absorbed as part of the overall operations of the aquatic site. A stand-alone splash park could cost around $8,000 a month to maintain with external contractors completing tasks such as 4 hourly water testing, backwashing, cleaning and rubbish removal

Consider now the idea of inclusion of the Bay Push splash park proposed for Corrigans reserve as being part of the aquatic centre taking advantage of considerable cost savings in plant and overheads of staffing • Plant Room shed • Sand Filters • Commercial pumps (filtrations and features) • Liquid chlorine and acid dosing system • Concrete in ground balance tank (approx. 18,000 litres) • Manifold and solenoid valves for feature control • Electrical switchboard and wiring • Pipework The question now is how did Otium come to cost a splash pool of 150m sq at $1.1m ???? With their pool now 25m, their hydro pool well short of expectations, their kiddies pool non-compliant with OH&S learn to swim guidelines and their funding grant for a 350 seat theatre and meeting rooms that smells more like rotting fish that rancid pork the Council is now clambering to cover up the deception of the REGIONAL part of their 'REGIONAL' facility that does not tick any REGIONAL purpose, destined to be the local pool and community hall. The addition of a 1000m2 gymnasium area at a time when Batemans Bay is already well serviced does not lend itself to the space being a REGIONAL facility as each town also has its own gyms. The REGIONAL tag is important though as it is the only mechanism that Council has to insist that all ratepayers contribute to the running costs of the facility. Next week will see Councillors adopt the next budget - in that will be an allocation to pay a consultant to rebadge the facility and to come up with a logo. No doubt the instruction will be to ensure the word REGIONAL remains. And what of the REGIONAL Arts? There are no groups who have indicated any need for the facility, no theatre, no dance, no performance. Nor has there been any touring group indicating a need for it. There is no local group prepared to manage it and the business plan that states it will have twelve performances a year, each running for nine days and sold out on each night with an attendance of 32,000 per year giving an expected loss of $300,000 is nothing short of fanciful. But the majority of our councillors, led by the Mayor, are going to approve it all - without question. Wonderful.