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Presentation: Lei Parker on the future of Narooma Pool



A report is to be presented to you as Eurobodalla Councillors today (Nov 26th, 2019) offering a draft Plan of Management (POM) for the Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct seeking consent to send the draft POM to the NSW Department of Industry – Crown Lands (DOI) for assessment as the land owner.

The Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct comprises the Bill Smyth Oval Reserve and the Narooma Tourist Information Centre Oval (NATA) Reserve.

NATA Oval Reserve also incorporates the Narooma Leisure Centre, Swimming Centre, Narooma Easts Holiday Park and the Wagonga Inlet foreshore north to the Narooma Bridge.

These Reserves are Crown Land under the control and management of Eurobodalla Shire Council.

The draft Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management advises that a number of broad strategy documents exist that provide important direction to the Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct site.

Of particular note, among others, are the following:

Community Strategic Plan Recreation and Open Space Strategy 2018 Destination Action Plan 2016 Narooma Foreshore Destination Master Plan Eurobodalla Pathway Strategy 2017

One key document is however missing: The Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy that Council endorsed in 2017.


In the draft Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management, under the heading Existing Site and Asset Condition, it identifies the Narooma Swimming Centre as:

Comprising a 50m indoor pool facility with outdoor splash pad, clubroom and administrative facilities. The clubroom is used for exercise classes, yoga and swimming club activities.

Whilst some facilities are in reasonable condition (or new, as per the splash pad constructed in 2018/19), others are reaching the end of their useful life and forward planning for new buildings and plant are needed through the life of the Plan of Management.

What the report fails to state are the more specific, concerning and omitted details of the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy which clearly states:

Geotechnical investigation into foundation and subgrade movement and the integrity of the pool at shell Narooma Swimming Centre needs to be undertaken. Subject to the outcome of this investigation, the repair or replacement of the existing 50m pool may be required. The timing of these works will be subject to the outcome of the engineering investigation

Whilst the co-location of aquatic facilities with other elements (eg health and fitness, wellness, retail and food and beverage) support a centre to better maximise its viability, once the proposed new Batemans Bay Leisure Centre is developed it is highly unlikely Council will be able to meet the capital and operational funding required to upgrade its other pools to this level.

The report noted that while the Narooma Swimming Pool centre provides basic services, it is dated, aesthetically poor and has a limited economically useful life.

The adopted Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy prepared by Otium recommended upgrade/ redevelopment proposals for each pool saying of Narooma · Demolish existing facility.

· Develop indoor program/ leisure pool and associated facilities (e.g. café)

· Develop 50m x 8-lane pool in tank of existing indoor pool.

· Provide for future expansion of dry facilities

· Improve usage of underutilised infrastructure

The report before you today identifies a proposal to modernise the Swimming Centre and “establish greater integration with surrounding facilities is primarily related to taking advantage of the prime foreshore location. This would assist to consolidate uses and functions and support the longer-term business case for retention and expansion of the facility.”

Of the Narooma Swimming Centre it recommends:

- Internal and external modernisation and renovation of the Swimming Centre buildings - Preparation of a business case / feasibility study to provide enhanced aquatic, community health and fitness facilities, including the revisioning of the Swimming Centre to include: i) food and beverage facilities to service pool patrons and other visitors. ii) pool equipment and facility upgrades

It also states as an action:

The Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management - Implementation Action Plan calls for a feasibility study / business case to be developed. If you endorse this Plan then you also endorse this action.

Note that the endorsed 2017 Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy already offers guidance on the financial viability of the Narooma Pool stating:

All three of Council’s swimming centres are operating at a deficit with Batemans Bay and Moruya generating annual deficits of between $111,018 - $139,020 over the past two years. The Narooma Swimming Centre has generated recent operating deficits of $370,765 and $378,222, resulting in a 2015/16 subsidy per user visit of $7.60

By way of comparison, based on comparing the estimated 2016 Narooma Pool catchment population of 8,077 against the CERM18 Group 7 Indoor Pools catchment multiple (8.8), total visitation of 71,078 could be achieved. On this basis Narooma Pool is performing substantially below expectations.

The Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy identified that the Eurobodalla community and tourism profile suggests that given relatively modest projected growth of 6,749 to 2036, it will be important to ensure that future aquatic provision is sustainable saying “It will not be possible to provide a high level of contemporary aquatic facility provision in each township and product differentiation will be necessary.”

In the summary of the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy it stated:

Narooma Swimming Centre has an indoor 50m pool, however the pool is ageing, has no ramp entry and has variable water depths.

The Centre also includes a small low depth outdoor pool, ageing changing rooms, non-contemporary kiosk and reception arrangements.

Narooma Swimming Centre does not reflect contemporary aquatic facility trends, has few components that contribute to more successful facilities and/ or cater for a diversified range of markets.

Following a detailed inspection in 2014, it was found that the Centre will need some fairly major work in the not too distant future. Initially further investigation was recommended to establish what is actually happening to the pool and surrounding structure. There is evidence of foundation and subgrade movement which is likely to be a result changes in the ground water conditions.

The report before you states:

The Precinct is also subject to flood events, the frequency and intensity of which is anticipated to worsen with the impacts of climate change and sea level rise over the longer term. All of the Precinct, with the exception of some elevated areas of native vegetation in the southern portion of Bill Smyth Oval reserve is identified within the draft Flood Planning Map

The 2017 Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy, prepared by a consultant with no community engagement and endorsed by Council with no community engagement, identifies that the Narooma Pool is to be the Shire’s only 50m pool. Yet that determination was made with no long term commitment of funding.

While the draft Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management references the Recreation and Open Space Strategy 2018 the current Eurobodalla Aquatic Plan references the Eurobodalla Shire Council Recreation and Open Space Strategy, 2010 that offers the following key recommendations for the Narooma pool:

o Fill in children’s pool and replace with aqua play area.

o Investigate co-location of additional facilities such as gym and café to improve economic viability.

o Potential to redesign existing 50m pool to accommodate three separate bodies of water: 25m indoor pool, hydrotherapy and beach entry play pool.

This Council’s endorsement of the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy remains controversial at best and is considered a divisive mechanism to surreptitiously endorse Council’s intent to replace the Batemans Bay 50m pool with a 25m pool stating that Narooma will retain the regions premier events pool.

It is clear that these current observations and recommendations contained in the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy in regards to the Narooma Pool should be in the draft Narooma Sport and Leisure Precinct Plan of Management as they carry with them a budgetary commitment that will no doubt have to be found, either driven by increased rates, or by securing future grants.

If neither of these are forthcoming then economic rationalism would see the Narooma 50m pool downsized, as has been the case with Batemans Bay pool, to encourage improved utilisation and improve economic sustainability, as is Council’s justification for doing exactly this at the proposed Mackay Park Leisure Centre.

The following Questions are tabled as part of this presentation for Councillors – these questions are requested to be published as part of the presentation for archiving on Council’s website:

Image above: Financial-Statements-2018-19

Question 1.

Note in Financial-Statements-2018-19 there are three swimming centres.

One is assessed as Excellent/very good No work required (normal maintenance), One is Good. Only minor maintenance work required One is Satisfactory. Maintenance work required

The Financial-Statements-2018-19 fail however to reveal which pool is which.

If we assume that the Moruya Pool is Excellent that leaves one pool assessed as Good and One as Satisfactory.

The Otium Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy clearly states for the Batemans Bay Pool: Items for immediate attention are relatively few, but should be attended to as soon as funding allows. In the longer term, a filtration and reticulation pipework upgrade will be necessary but this will be triggered by increased bathing loads at the centre and/or results from the leak detection investigation. Major recommended works were: · Provision of access ramp into the 50m pool - $150,000 (Long Term) · New filtration system - $400,000 (Long Term) · New reticulation pipework to pools - $250,000 (Long Term).

The above must therefore make the Batemans Bay Pool, the one assessed as Good, leaving the Narooma Pool to be assessed financially as Satisfactory.

Yet the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy clearly states that the Narooma Pool is far from Satisfactory.

“the Narooma Pool, following a detailed inspection in 2014, was found that the Centre will need some fairly major work in the not too distant future. Initially further investigation was recommended to establish what is actually happening to the pool and surrounding structure. There is evidence of foundation and subgrade movement which is likely to be a result changes in the ground water conditions.

The Financial-Statements-2018-19 state that Swimming Pools were valued in-house utilising Council's experienced engineering staff. “The cost approach has been used based on the replacement cost for each pool by componentising its significant parts. While some elements of gross replacement values may be supported from market evidence (Level 2 input) other inputs (such as estimates of pattern of consumption, residual value, asset condition and useful life) required extensive professional judgment and impacted significantly on the final determination of fair value.” The Financial-Statements-2018-19 state that the Net carrying amount for swimming pools is $1,823,000 A Net Carrying Amount is calculated by taking the original cost of purchasing the asset, consider the depreciation cost for each year and then multiply that with the number of years that the asset will continue to be of use. You then subtract the product of this calculation from the original purchase price to get the carrying amount. As you can see the Net carrying amount is both nebulous and reasonably baseless as each of the pools are fifty years old, were predominantly gifted, and the depreciation of each (being cost to bring to satisfactory) is not present to allow calculation. Of more interest is the estimate of $3,711,000 as a gross replacement cost for the three pools. This is the figure being quoted to Councillors in the Financial-Statements-2018-19. Even with the proposed removal of the Batemans Bay swimming pool from the figure $3,711,000 alone would NOT replace the extensive works required of the Narooma Pool to remedy the many issues that have been identified by the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy. Councillors, I seek clarification around the figures that have been presented to you today. It is evident that reporting on all three pools under a single line item leaves much to be desired and communicates little to anyone who has any interest in learning more of the Chart of Accounts. ********************* In January 2017, Council engaged Otium Planning Group, with the assistance of FDG Architects, Outside the Square Creative Consultants, MRCagney and Turner Townsend Quantity Surveyors, to prepare the Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy. In the REPORT TO EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL HELD ON TUESDAY 29 AUGUST 2017 it states: A 50m pool is inconsistent with the draft aquatic strategy for the Eurobodalla Shire, which positions the Batemans Bay Aquatic Centre as the ‘program and aquatic leisure centre and the Narooma Pool as Eurobodalla Shire’s ‘event and competition swimming centre

NOTE that the very first mention of the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy in Council chambers was August 29th, 2017. It is critical for Councillors to understand that the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy has never been formally endorsed. It remains a Draft.

Question 2: Were you aware, on the day you endorsed the Otium Concept One as part of the Mayoral Minute, TUESDAY 27 MARCH 2018 , that you were also endorsing a Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic strategy, commissioned by staff, developed with NO consultation with the community, and by the same Otium consultant that recommended the removal of the Batemans Bay 50m pool? The public were NOT made aware of the delivery and the endorsement of the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy as it wasn’t mentioned in the Mayoral Minute – only the following: 3. Confirm that the Option 1 concept plan prepared by Otium Planning Group, is endorsed as the basis for undertaking the detailed design of the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park Batemans Bay. Question 3: Were you aware that by adopting Otium Option 1 that you were also adopting the Otium recommendation within the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy: 9.3.1 Batemans Bay Leisure Centre - The recommended future directions and improvements including proposed development priority for the co-location of aquatic, recreation, arts/ cultural, visitor, and mini-golf facilities at the southern end of the Mackay Park Precinct ensures economies of scale and efficiencies from a capital and operating cost perspective. This recommendation that you unknowingly adopted included, as per their prepared Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy · Indoor 25m x 20m (8 lane) pool with ramp access · Warm water/ program pool and spa area at end of pool with ramp access · Toddlers/ leisure water (incorporating some deeper water at one end to accommodate additional learn-to-swim) · Water play splash pad (zero depth) · Tower and waterslides Question 4: Were you provided a copy of the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy by staff prior to adopting Option 1 TUESDAY 27 MARCH 2018. If so on what date? Question 5: Did you read the Draft Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy prior to endorsing it? IF not, then how did you come to endorse it ?

I offer you the following for your consideration: Liz Innes delivered a Mayoral Report on 27 March 2018 which she did not write, prepared by staff, which by its content, complexity and intent, flies in the face of the guidelines of the Local Government Act.

I remind you now that, as councillors, you did have forewarning, with a quick mention that morning before Council session, that an as yet to be finalised Mayoral Minute was going to be delivered during Tuesday’s Council meeting however you were not privy to its as Council staff were still preparing the document and would be doing so whilst the you, as Councillors, were in session. As councillors, (not the public) you only knew it was arriving sometime..... with the understanding that, as a Mayoral Minute, it would not introduce, without notice matters that were routine nor would it introduce, without notice non-urgent matters or any matters that might require research or a lot of consideration by councillors before coming to a decision. Little did you realise that they would be given a 15 page document with 6412 words and only 15 minutes to read it.

When the Mayoral Report was introduced (Timestamp at 3:05:25 on Live streaming archive video http://webcast.esc.nsw.gov.au/archive/video18-0327.php ) Mayor Innes said to her fellow councillors “I hope you have all had an opportunity during our fifteen minute break to have a read and to have a consider of what was put forward in the Mayoral Notice of Motion” A comment from Councillor Anthony Mayne revealed the lack of time perfectly when he stated he had had no time to read the report at all. “I apologise… I did not get my fifteen minutes”… Fifteen minutes to read fifteen pages with 6412 words ???? (Note: The average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute - the reading speed of our Councillors is unknown but it is doubtful that any of them could have read it properly in less than 20 minutes)

It is now widely considered that the URGENCY around the Mayoral Minute was entirely political. There was infact a political urgency to confirm: - there would be no 50m pool and - that the Otium Concept 1 with its 500 seat capacity auditorium be affirmed, thereby ending all future debate and closing down any future community dissent.

Some key points and issues, in relation to the inappropriateness of the mayoral minute that was presented to councillors (and the public) at the 27/3/2018 meeting, are as follows.

(1) Part 2.7.1 of OLG's 'Meetings Practice Note - August 2009' says that mayoral minutes should not be used to introduce, without notice, matters that are:

“not urgent, or need research or a lot of consideration by the councillors before coming to a decision.”

There does not appear, in the opinion of those who have now had time to read it, that there was anything in the mayoral minute (available in full HERE *) that was of such urgency that would not have reasonably allowed for the matters to have been deferred until the next (or even a later) council meeting.

* http://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/inside-council/council/meetings/2018/march/ordinary-council-meeting-27-march-2018/Mayoral-report-27-3-2018.pdf

The Mayor did make an apology saying that it wasn’t in the agenda however “not withstanding the announcement that was made last night by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this IS AN OPPORTUNE TIME at this Council meeting to progress things and move things forward.”

"Opportune time" does not equal URGENT.

In summary those “urgent matters” in the Mayoral Minute that apparently couldn’t wait were to: - Thank the Premier - Continue to advocate to the NSW and Australian Governments for funding to complete the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre. - Confirm Option 1 as the plan (which they had already done previously) - Note that the ultimate design is dependent on the total amount of grant funding received. - Confirm that the design phase will consider potential to expand - Note that during the design phase costs will need to be reviewed - Note that further engagement will be undertaken with the community - Proceed with the issuing of Request for Expressions of Interest to redevelop the northern precinct of Mackay Park

It is very clear from the above that these are NOT urgent matters and are in fact Routine.

There was also the matter in the Mayoral Minute that clearly deserved more than fifteen minutes notice for proper consideration by councillors and the probable impact to the community being: - Support the inclusion of a 25m by 10 lane lap pool Councillor McGinlay, with genuine concern during debate, bought question around this point and the inevitable cessation of any further discussion with community groups over the inclusion of a 50m pool. Councillor Mayne also reiterated his concerns of the Confirmation of the Otium Option 1 Concept plan as possibly thwarting further discussion regarding the capacity of performance space being set at 450 to 500. It was clear that to both of these councillors there was indeed an opportunity for a lot of consideration by the councillors before coming to a decision.

The final, left of field, wildcard in the Mayoral Minute was the inclusion of “Investigate the potential for the provision of long distance swimming facilities in the ocean at an appropriate location in the Batemans Bay area.” This element is considered, by all who read it, as NOT Urgent and also, as it sets to allocate funds and resources to the investigation without any definition of limit, scope or even justification, it too flies in the face of what is acceptable in a Mayoral Minute.