Questions still remain around future of Narooma Pool
A report is to be presented to Eurobodalla Councillors at next Tuesday's Ordinary Council meeting (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.
Of particular interest will be what the plan proposes for the Narooma Swimming Centre. The pool presently comprises 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. The Plan of Management notes that "the existing buildings and facility relationship to the adjoining foreshore is relatively poor and as such long term planning has been identified as being required to maximise participation and assess feasibility to provide enhanced aquatic, community health and fitness facilities." The report also states "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 "Located in a prime foreshore location, the configuration of the facility does not connect well with the surrounding area, with the back of house infrastructure presenting to Bluewater Drive and in close proximity to the foreshore." Council believe there is potential to change the configuration and to 'open up' the facility to the adjoining foreshore to create "greater connectivity and activation" offering as an example, establishing a focal point created with café and public plaza at northern side of the building, "creating an interface between the Wharf, car parking areas and the foreshore - Narooma's greatest asset". "Wayfinding would need to be improved to assist in encouraging visitors to stop and explore the area. Well-placed signage, artworks, and improved line of sight to the foreshore area would all assist - particularly at and from the intersection of Bluewater Drive and the Highway. More play and fitness elements could also be incorporated in the area, with other suggestions including making e-bikes / e-scooter rental available to encourage people to move explore the area." All of this will take considerable funds and the future of Narooma's 50m pool could well be under threat if the economic rationalist behind the down sizing of the Batemans Bay pool to a 25m get their way. If so the Narooma 50m pool has Buckley's of being reinstated when it comes to the end of its days. The current Eurobodalla Shire Council – Aquatic Strategy (Draft) states of the Narooma pool: 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. Initially, a leak test of the pool and pipe work and rectification of the associated leaks was recommended. The report recommended that a geotechnical engineer be engaged to review the material under the concourse and around the pool and building structure. This should provide sufficient information to establish what is causing the movement. To determine if the pool shell is to be retained, it recommended that destructive testing and defect mapping be undertaken to determine the effective life left in the pool shell. This investigation can also confirm what is happening at the expansion joints. These works would enable informed discussion of the pros and cons of pool repair versus pool replacement and the various options available, together with the preparation of associated costs for each of the options to enable a business case analysis to be undertaken. Note that while the Eurobodalla Shire Council – Aquatic Strategy (Draft) was commissioned by Council to advise the justification for downsizing the Batemans Bay pool the Strategy has NOT been correctly endorsed by Council nor has it come under any community scrutiny. To establish where the Narooma Pool is going let's go back over the past strategies: In the Eurobodalla Shire Council Swimming Pools Strategic Review, 2005 (Recreation Planning Associations in conjunction with Prior + Cheney Pty Ltd (Architects) it was noted that "while the centre provides basic services, it is dated, aesthetically poor and has a limited economically useful life" For Batemans Bay the 2005 report recommended: Structural audit of existing pool shell to determine remaining life expectation (since completed) Develop an integrated leisure centre at Hanging Rock Reserve Integrated leisure centre comprising 50m x 8 lane outdoor pool, indoor program/ leisure pool, existing single court (potential expansion to 2 courts), café, administration area, gym, program space, crèche and potential later inclusion of 25m indoor pool. And what about the Narooma Pool in 2005? The Eurobodalla Shire Council Swimming Pools Strategic Review, 2005 (Recreation Planning Associations in conjunction with Prior + Cheney Pty Ltd (Architects) recommended for Narooma Pool that Council : 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 However just five years later in the Eurobodalla Shire Council Recreation and Open Space Strategy, 2010 it offered 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. And now, in 2018? Here is a heads up to the Narooma community. Your pool is physically and financially failing and it has been identified as running at a considerable loss requiring ratepayer subsidies to keep it operative. In February 2017 hydrostatic valves were installed into the base of the pool as a preventive measure to protect it from cracking as the pool is located in a tidal area and can shift slightly with big tidal movements. The primary reason Batemans Bay did not get a 50m pool was because it was considered "inconsistent with the recommendations of the Draft 2017 Aquatic Strategy" which positions Batemans Bay Pool as a Program and Aquatic Leisure Centre for the shire and recommends that the existing enclosed 50m pool in Narooma be retained and positioned to accommodate the Shire’s swimming carnival and event needs; Yet that same document advises Council that there is a limited market for traditional 50m pools and the additional capital cost are substantial while the consultant also advised that having a 50m pool in a community with a population of less than 100,000 is financially nonviable. Based on the numbers being crunched for the Batemans Bay pool a replacement for Narooma would be in the order of $20m without much change and serious consideration would have to be applied to have the new pool located on the same site that has been identified as prone to sub surface movement and to future sea level rise. Council has invested significantly in refurbishing the Narooma pool, including a new pool bottom just recently, and it is stated that the pool will continue to be the shire’s premier swimming venue. It appears now that Narooma pool’s long-term future see's it included in a grant for a master plan to redevelop the whole inlet foreshore area, including the pool, sports and leisure centre, town wharf, NATA Oval and visitor information centre. It is understood that a separate grant has also been sought to develop a master plan for Bill Smyth Oval The Draft Eurobodalla Shire Council Aquatic Strategy states of the Narooma Pool: 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. It also 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. Narooma Swimming Centre currently has a 50m indoor pool servicing the community. Further, the Centre is proposed to be positioned as the Shire’s swimming carnival and events facility. On this basis, the need to replace the existing indoor 50m pool once it reaches the end of its useful life with another 50m enclosed pool is considered necessary. Ramp access into the pool will improve accessibility for people with disabilities, older adults and persons with an injury. An expanded concourse and spectator seating is necessary in order to better service the larger number of participants and spectators that gather for aquatic events. Funding of $350,000 for the development of leisure water is already committed. 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. It might well be time Council bought their Draft Eurobodalla Shire Council – Aquatic Strategy to the community and laid a few cards on the table.