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Time for councillors to rethink the Mackay Park blowout and end cost to the community

Dear Beagle Editor,

Ordinarily Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure centre in Batemans Bay would have overwhelming public support. Such a facility will promote social cohesion, physical and emotional health and wellbeing, long term employment opportunities and support businesses in Batemans Bay and the wider Eurobodalla.

However, a major barrier to the public’s support has, and continues to be, Eurobodalla Council. Senior staff continue to demonstrate contempt for transparency. A failed community consultation process and the usual default to secrecy under the guise of “commercial in confidence” has not, and does not, engender trust or confidence. Resultant community discontent is a reflection of this lack of transparency and failed community consultation process.

Three years on from the Extraordinary Council meeting on the 29th August 2017 and residents and ratepayers still have not seen the business plan covering the affordability of the future annual cost of operating the proposed facility. The public has not been given the opportunity to see the cost of decisions that are being made in our name. We are literally in the dark about the cost/benefit of the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre. The 2017 Report Mackay Park Precinct Development Cost Benefit Assessment & Economic Impact Analysis [FINAL REPORT] obtained under Freedom of Information GIPA [Government Information [Public Access]] is redacted in black [it is suspected] that goes well beyond a proper application of the provisions of the GIPA Act. Until tenders for the development application are completed, the final cost remains unknown. What is known is that assets owned and used by the public are planned to be sold to pay for any shortfall in the construction of the Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre. One asset earmarked is the Batemans Bay Community Centre which is home to 112 community organisations and over 900 community members. In May last year a petition was presented to Clr Anthony Mayne with 1,029 signatures in support of keeping the Batemans Bay Community Centre in public hands because it is valuable community asset 2. the space in the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre for community organisations to use is not like for like. The petition was received and noted on an Ordinary Council Meeting in April last year. Another valued asset is Pretty Point Bay Reserve, the last piece green space left at Malua Bay. Pretty Point Bay reserve was gifted to Council in the 1960’s for use as a public recreational area. Again signatures have been gathered opposing Eurobodalla Council’s latest attempt to rezone the land as residential. This reserve is one of many identified by Council to be sold as "surplus to use" with the profits directed into the Recreation fund to pay for recreational facilities such as Mackay Park. Can we afford to lose assets owned and used by the public that associated groups and individuals have fought hard to keep?

The public has a right to know: Can we afford the Regional Aquatic Art and Leisure Centre as it is?

Batemans Bay has a long term unemployment problem that was present before the bushfires and COVID-19. How is this project going to address unemployment in Batemans Bay and the wider Eurobodalla?

How many permanent local jobs will be created during the building and running of the facility?

With the inclusion of a 1000sq gym in the DA how many local jobs might be lost in other gyms in Batemans Bay?

The generous spirit that underlies the Batemans Bay Swimming Centre, built because of a philanthropic donation in the 1960’s and supported over the years with fundraising by the Batemans Bay Swimming Club, has been undermined by Eurobodalla Council. For over 50 years, the Swimming Centre has promoted and facilitated physical fitness and enjoyment, social cohesion, emotional wellbeing and as an important meeting place for all ages. It is not that a year round Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre should not replace the Batemans Bay Swimming Centre.

The ALP Eurobodalla Local Government Committee believes that the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre should go ahead when we are in a better position after the financial, personal and emotional cost of the bushfires and COVID-19, when the community has been fully consulted according the Eurobodalla Council’s Community Engagement Framework and when we know it will be affordable into the future.

Maureen Searson

ALP Eurobodalla Local Government Committee

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