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Mayor comes under mounting public criticism

The Mayor of Eurobodalla, Liz Innes, is coming under mounting criticism over the proposed Mackay Park 25m pool and 350 seat theatrette set to cost in excess of 60 million dollars. From the outset of the proposal Council has been accused of manipulating the community and the narrative while also rendering information "commercial in confidence" and having members of the public in groups such as the community Sunset Committee to agree to confidentiality clauses. Adding insult to injury the Council has refused, under Freedom of Information requests, to allow grant applications around the project to NSW Sport and to the Regional Growth fund to be released for public scrutiny. The project, originally listed at $46 million, has now blown out to over $60 million with councillors now aware of THE GAP that exists from their $51 million grant allocations. To service the GAP the councillors have now been briefed by staff of what public assets, such as the Batemans Bay Information Centre and the Batemans Bay Community Centre can be sold. Adding to THE GAP will be an ongoing issue that the Mayor and her Councillors will need to publicly defend such as the ongoing commitment to sell of Council public reserves stating they are "surplus to use". The Mayor continues to have a naivety around the business case for the complex that will be owned by the public. The argument that "if we could afford a 50mtr indoor pool for the few who want to swim laps" doesn't wash when Council has refused time and time again to reveal the figures that support the claim that a 50m pool is unaffordable. There are now calls for the Mayor and her councillors to look hard at the $36 million Stromlo Leisure Centre that will service an expected 100,000 through the turnstiles. Facilities at the new Stromlo centre will include:

  • An eight-lane 50-metre competition pool capable of being split into 2 x 25-metre short course swimming pools

  • A learn-to-swim pool

  • A leisure pool

  • A splash pad and slide

  • A gym

  • Family change rooms

  • A creche

  • A kiosk/café

There are also mounting questions around the location of the proposed Mackay Park warm water therapy pool that will be placed directly adjacent to a kids splash pad and learn to swim pool. With the proposed regional hospital now in sight many believe that the location of a therapy pool will be in the precinct of the regional hospital to be used exclusively by those requiring warm water therapy and exercise under professional supervision. Since the outset the Mackay Park has been steadily whittled away from its original design. The original 25m pool that Council lodged with NSW Sport was 10 lanes wide. It was then reduced to eight. The heated therapy pool was originally much bigger and also much deeper, as was the learn to swim pool. The outside waterslide disappeared as did the 50m two lane lap pool. next came the removal of the Visitor Information booth and the reduction of art gallery space to just wall display in the foyer. To top it off the 500 seat theatre was reduced to a 350 seat theatrette. Oddly however the size of the gymnasium has now been expanded to 1000m2 with the explaination that a leased gym will be a major contributor to meet the costs of overheads. While Batemans Bay already has several gymnasiums it has already been suggested by a key player in the local industry that the new Council owned gym may be leased to a multinational company. Meanwhile Council is currently asking for Expressions of Interest to run the centre when it opens. In the ACT the YMCA NSW has been contracted until 30 June 2022 in a deal worth $614,000. The ACT Government has been very public with the details of the finances around this contract. And all of these reductions (with the exception of the gym) have not bode well for the Mayor and her councillors who have placed a veil of secrecy around the project, costs, projected incomes and projected expenditures. To date there has been neither Openness, Transparency nor any disclosure. The Mayor and her Community Action Alliance team of Tait and Nathan  appear to have forgotten their manifesto "We won’t just listen to our residents’ reasonable concerns. We will take notice and we will take action" and "The Council can be the solution. It should not be the problem". The Mayor's manifesto is correct that while Council CAN BE the solution it should NOT Be the problem. Under the leadership of Mayor Innes however, this Council refuses to be the solution to the way they continue to deal with the community over Mackay Park and they HAVE become the problem. While the Mayor might suggest that "It just means that to be able to afford it without a rate increase some of you will have to make a compromise," there are many in the community who are now looking more closely at the evolution of the project, from moving it from Hanging Rock to Mackay Park to the highly questionable and secretive purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site that saw Council pay $2.7m for a $1.5m property that was shortly after deemed uninhabitable and demolished. There is also the secrecy of the payout to the Mini Golf that Council has made to see them leave the precinct. It is now widely observed that the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy, written by a consultant, with no public involvement, that was adopted by Councillors who had neither contributed to it nor read it prior to voting to endorse it as one element of 12 remains one of the lowest points in the subterfuge, lies and manipulations that this Eurobodalla Council, under Mayor Innes, has sunk to. The councillors now await the tenders they have called for the project. Following the reappraisal of the new design by a consultant quantity surveyor the councillors are now aware of THE UNDISCLOSED GAP that it will cost above the $51 million they have in budget. Bound to secrecy not to reveal THE GAP to the public or to reveal how they will garner public funds to fill the GAP the next step will be to discover what the winning bid will be and learn what the ongoing operating costs and depreciation will be. Estimated at over $2 million dollars per year that cost will be evenly distributed across all ratepayers, swimmers, learners, bobbers and theatre goers. An our rates will cover it all. Based on the speculation of how many turn up we had best either redesign or pool to be a kiddies pool and out theatrette to be a cabaret bar.

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