Long-running plans for an aquatic and cultural centre in Batemans Bay have advanced with Eurobodalla Councillors this week approving the development of detailed plans, but that next step comes with financial concerns and pressures.
Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Director of Planning Lindsay Usher says the community can now get a feel for the general design of the proposed Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre thanks to a video walkthrough of the combined pool and theatre space.
“The concept approved by council is the result of extensive community feedback. It takes the best from three alternate designs we put to the public earlier this year.” Mr Usher says.
Those who have followed the project will note that the approved design no longer includes a 10 lane 25-metre pool.
“The aquatic centre will include a heated eight-lane 25 metre lap pool, and water-program, leisure and learn-to-swim pools, plus a waterslide,” Mr Usher says.
“The theatre is a flexible performance space with retractable seating for 350, with attached arts, performance and amenities rooms.
“The recommended design outcome, in response to capital cost pressures, is a 25 metre pool that can be used as an 8 lane pool for competition swimming or can be reconfigured to be a 10 lane pool – lane width of 2 metres.
“This option provides a greater degree of flexibility while enabling the pool to meet the requirements for short course
championships. The black lines in the pool will be configured for the 8 lane layout.”
Click play to experience the video walkthrough…
The next phase of the project involves lodging a development application for determination by Council and the NSW Government’s Southern Regional Planning Panel, with a detailed design finalised prior to a tender process for the construction of the centre.
Funding of $51 million has been secured for the development – $25 million from the Australian Government, and $26 million from the NSW Government, plus $4 million committed by Council, a total of $55 million.
As one of three Councillors to vote against the motion this week, Pat McGinlay fears the numbers don’t stack up.
“Given that I know what two quantitative surveyors have told us it is fiscally irresponsible to proceed, Cr McGinlay says.
“There is a gap between the funding we have and the estimated cost of the project. I would rather take a step back and review where and how that gap in funding is going to be filled.
“I am not against the project, it will be wonderful, but mine is a cautionary approach.”
Councillors Phil Constable and Anthony Mayne also voted against the recommendations, Mayor Liz Innes was absent from the meeting.
Details of the quantity surveying estimates are not public, however, in his report to Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Usher says “The capital cost estimates have been used to inform the design process and manage the likely capital cost of the development. This has been challenging, given the strong construction market currently in existence, which is resulting in significant cost escalation across the construction industry.”
“If Council proceeds with this development there will be a competitive tender process for the construction. There is also likely to be competitive tender processes for the operation of the facility, or parts of the facility, dependent upon which management model is adopted by Council.
“Whilst significant reductions in cost have been achieved through the design process, further work will be required through the detailed design stage to attempt to further reduce the capital cost. In addition, Councillors have been briefed on, and will need to consider, additional funding sources for the project.
“The building will be something that the community can be proud of, providing much needed and expanded services to the community, services that have long been asked for,” Mr Usher says.
Cr McGinlay is concerned talk of increased costs sets Council on a path towards selling assets like the Moruya Racecourse and Batemans Bay Community Centre, “none of which has been approved yet,” he says.