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Mackay Park: will it be a white elephant or a truly “Gateway Development” for the shire

Dear Beagle Editor,

I write in response to a Letter to the Editor “Mackay Park pool right for the majority of residents” published on page 22 of the Beagle Weekly on 17 April 2020. The writer seemed critical of those in the community who believe an Olympic pool should be an integral component of the proposed aquatic, sports, leisure, arts, cultural and community “Gateway Development” in Batemans Bay’s Mackay Park precinct.

“Well tough luck to a small few”, the writer said, if the Olympic pool can’t be retained. That “small few” includes the major users of the pool area - swimming clubs, “serious” swimmers, schools, life saving and other sporting groups and associations. Is that “small few” also reflected in the responses to council’s kiosk surveys held twelve months ago when the vast majority of respondents, 266 of the 273, wanted the 50 metre poll retained? That “small few” isn’t only those who have publicly in the media advocated provision of facilities capable of serving the community’s wishes and needs not only now but over the 50 or more years of the development’s life.

At no time to my knowledge, has anyone in that”small few” said there should not be a heated pool for hydrotherapy or wider uses - a heated pool is a logical amenity that should be available to the community throughout the year along with the other associated facilities, like a learn to swim and splash pools, water slides, a café, a gym and even a creche that will synergistically help attract the maximum number of users and thereby the maximum revenue to offset costs.

The same arguments can be put for the arts, cultural and community facilities included in the current proposed development. They have been progressively reduced in size and number over successive revisions of the plans contrary to the facilties’ ability to attract wide patronage and against the wishes and needs of their principle user groups, some of which have also been lobbying and collecting funds over decades for the provision of such amenities in the Batemans Bay region.

In a way I’m glad Mr Weber has written his letter to the Beagle because it, along with other comments on recent About Regional and Beagle articles, shows a lack of understanding in the community about what council has proposed. I hope it alerts residents to do some homework and motivates councillors to fill the gap that still exists in the way this significant development has been communicated with the shire’s residents.

I cannot agree with Mr Weber that “council have got this one right for the majority of residents, visitors and tourists in the Eurobodalla” but I do maintain that the shire does deserve a “Gateway Development”. A single building with no room for change or expansion is not the best solution and two purpose specific buildings would be preferable – the aquatic/spots/leisure one where the current Olympic pool is and the arts/cultural/community one sited where the old bowling club was. There’s no rush because a staged development could be more affordable and flexible in the long run.

Until councillors have deliberated on the affordability of the project, there’s still time for the community members to tell them what they want – a white elephant or a truly “Gateway Development” for the shire.

Jeff de Jager

Coila

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