A tele-meeting was conducted today by the Southern Regional Planning Panel to listen to community submissions regarding Council's Development Application for the Batemans Bay Regional Arts, Aquatic and Leisure Centre and the demolition of existing pool.
While Council's panel members were required to stand down due to declared conflicts of interest a quorum was achieved with the panel chair, Mr Gordon Kirkby, and two State members, Mr Tim Fletcher and Ms Renata Brook. The meeting was conducted as a teleconference call as a consequence of the imposed Public Order around social assembly that required presenters and listeners to register. Once registered a phone number and code was provided to enable them to join the public teleconference. Representing the Council were Lindsay Usher and Gary Bruce and presenting submissions were Jeff de Jager, Coral Anderson, Anthony Dean and Joan Armstrong. The Panel Chair, Gordon Kirkby, advised those attending the tele-meeting that a copy of the submissions and an audio recording will be made available on the Southern Regional Planning Panel website shortly. Jeff de Jager, the first speaker addressed the panel members objecting to the proposed development saying it was not in the public interest to proceed with an expensive and inflexible monolithic complex which falls short of the needs and wishes of the community. Mr de Jager said "The Eurobodalla Shire Council purchased the land to the immediate north of this proposed development in April 2106 in order to provide a “Gateway Development” for the shire." "In the years preceding this purchase, there were groups actively advocating for the provision of extra facilities in the area – one for an indoor heated pool accessible year round primarily for therapeutic purposes and the other for the provision of decent performance and exhibition spaces. "The purchase was seen by the major advocacy groups as the opportunity for their visions to be realised as was evidenced in the results of the consultation process held in mid-2016 but limited to the Batemans Bay area: it was envisaged in the community that the heated pool would be incorporated into the existing Olympic pool complex - the site of the proposed development – and that the arts/cultural facilities would be provided on the site of the old bowling club. He continued "In December 2106, Council called for tenders for the preparation of an aquatic strategy, concept plans and a business case which was subsequently - and quickly - presented by the selected consultancy from February 2017. There were two concept plans – Option 1 was for a single building containing all elements and Option 2 was for two functionally specific buildings. Both options had been drawn up replacing the existing 50 metre Olympic pool with a 25 metre and both showed a 500 seat performance space rather than the 800 seat facility envisaged by the performing arts advocacy group – there had been no prior community engagement on either of these two major variations. "Council said that on the consultant’s advice an Olympic sized pool was not required in Batemans Bay (despite it being the most populous town in the shire) and in any case such a large pool and an 800 seat performance space were “unaffordable”. "In August 2017, Council adopted the Option 1 concept citing as a reason that the differences in capital and operating costs contained in the business case prepared by the consultant and with major assumption queries and cost omissions detailed in its own disclaimers. The major planning conducted by other consultants since then have generally followed Concept 1 but further reductions of the size and number of inclusions have occurred for reasons of “affordability”. "The plan now before the Panel is the outcome of the past 3+ years’ changes to the community’s originally envisaged “Gateway Development”: it places all the reduced and remaining elements in a single building roughly on, and filling the site of the existing Olympic pool complex/Mini Golf facility. "It does not allow for any major changes or future expansion. "The current plan is silent on how the future development of the old bowling club site could proceed to maintain the concept of a “Gateway Development” either in terms of its useage or design." Mr de Jager concluded You can read Jeff de Jager's full submission to the Planning Panel HERE Anthony Dean spoke in detail around the failure of Council's public consultation process, his concerns about the foreseeable burden of maintenance costs on the community and the need for openness and transparency whilst also raising his ongoing concerns around the caution required around any possible gymnasium tender and its need to be transparent. Peter Coggin then spoke rising issues around the lack of public consultation around removal of the 50m pool and also raising concerns that the Learn To Swim pool failed to comply with guidelines in regards to safety separation from the splash pool and also in its failure to meet safe OHS&R operating depths for learn to swim teachers. Next speaker was Coral Anderson who began by urging the Panel to abandon the teleconference and defer this matter until such time as a properly convened face to face public meeting can be arranged. Ms Anderson said: "In this regard, I make the following points:
Due to the bushfires earlier this year, our main communication tower was burnt and has not been satisfactorily repaired
There is a high rate of line drop outs in this area. Whilst I was registering to speak on Friday, my phone line dropped out twice. Should this happen today, I am advised to call back
There is no urgency to progress this development
We are living in a time of uncertainty regarding the pandemic. Expecting participants to call back due to line drop outs would only add to that stress.
In relation to Council’s Assessment Report, in particular page 60 ‘community consultation’, I say that the Council did NOT consult with all stakeholders in an honest and transparent manner. In support, I again point out:
Council obtained letters of support to accompany their grant applications from various community organisations by deceptive method. Council failed to advise their targeted groups/community members of their intention to demolish our 50m Olympic pool in Batemans Bay.
Once a number of supporters learned of this deception (including Batemans Bay Swimming Club and PSSA member schools comprising some 4,000) they wrote to Council withdrawing their support.
Council ignored Our Towns Our Say’s Brief of Evidence (already forwarded to the Panel) which showed clear support from the public for the inclusion of a 50m Olympic pool.
Council has refused to provide revised costings despite being advised to do so by Minister Constance on 17th November 2017.
Council has ignored the results of its own survey showing overwhelming support for the inclusion of a 50m pool.
Despite assurances from Mayor Innes that Plan D (as contained in the DA) would show where a 50m pool could be sited, such siting is not shown.
The proposed ‘Shire’ 50m pool in Narooma, is in a far worse state than the Batemans Bay pool.
Transporting hundreds of school children along a busy highway from one end of the Shire to the other for regional/school swimming carnivals, is a dangerous exercise.
The Aboriginal community oppose the removal of the 50m pool in Batemans Bay.
Council has breached its own Community Engagement Strategy.
Ms Anderson continued "On this issue alone, Our Towns Our Say has held a number of public meetings throughout the Shire with attendances of up to 120. Council has ignored resolutions passed at these meetings. Hardly indicative of a Council which purports to have undertaken extensive community consultation.
"Council’s own survey report shows overwhelming support from the community to retain our 50m pool.
"There are simply too many issues to cover in the space of three minutes. If this was a trial by jury, then several witnesses could be called to support my statement. However this is not a courtroom and many ‘witnesses’ may be reluctant to come forward for fear of reprisal. So determined has council been to shut dissidents down I, myself, was the subject of a visit by police in relation to an unsubstantiated claim made against me by the Eurobodalla Shire Council because of my persistent questions raised with various government officials.
"In conclusion, I say that this DA should be rejected and that Eurobodalla Shire Council should begin a proper, transparent community consultation process to comply with its own Community Engagement Strategy." Following on from this presentation Ms Anderson the read the submission of Joan Armstrong, who was unable to attend. Ms Armstrong's submission started "This has left many resident homeless and in a state of anguish. I therefore request this non urgent DA be deferred.
"I point out the following: 1. This DA is proposed to be built in a recognised flood zone and potential fire path.
2. Two major bush fires have come within close proximity of the proposed site, the latest one being the closest. "Surely, both of these issues are cause for alarm particularly if Council try to incorporate and rename it and add the words 'evacuation ' centre. I now summarise my original submission as follows:
I object to the Development Application as lodged on the following grounds: The ( SOEE) report provided by Navigate Planning states "Following consultation with the community, including through the Mackay Park Sunset Committee, Council resolved in August 2017 to endorse Otium Option 1 as the concept for which grant funding would be sought and to inform the detailed design process". This claim is incorrect. The Sunset Committee members ,personally selected by council, were bound by a confidentiality agreement gagging them from speaking openly with the public. This is also reflected in most other sunset/advisory committees formed by Council. Concerned members of the community sought a copy of the original grant application lodged by Council but this request was fobbed off by Council falsely claiming it was up to the Office of Sport which was of course incorrect and in fact it was up to the applicant (Council) to provide a copy. This is still the subject of a GIPA request.
At the Council meeting on 27th August 2017 It would appear that Councillors were misled into believing that there was an urgency to submit the grant applications when indeed this was not the case.
Council’s own survey showed an overwhelming support for the retention of a 50m pool to be included in the development.
No business plan has been provided by Council. The community is fearful that the building costs will blowout . Council have already Identified that there was 'a gap' between the monies granted and the actual cost,but ,of course, when questioned about 'the gap' it was deemed 'commercial in confidence ' ( as everything appears to be). There appears to be a rush by Council to sell off community assets to fill this 'gap'. Will the ratepayers be bought to bear the costs? This complex has every indication that it will become an unviable white elephant.
As the Geotech Report for the area indicates that no bore holes were drilled in the footprint of the current facilities and therefore the costs of providing proper foundations in this area could be underestimated in the development's declared value.
Deputy mayor Clr Pollock, is quoted recently in the Bay Post as saying "Until we go through this DA, and get a contract price quote, nobody will know exactly what we're doing". Council's Lindsay Usher and Gary Bruce were then invited to respond and to answer questions raised by the panel. These answers along with the read submissions will be made available as an audio file on the Southern Regional Planning Panel website within 7 days The Chair brought the meeting to a close and advised that, due to the circumstances of the meeting not being public that they would allow an extension of submissions up to the 14th April to receive further comment in terms of what was said during the panel discussion, submissions and responses from Council officers.