As temperatures across New South Wales spiked and turned ugly this week, families in Bega looked on at the town’s water feature hoping it would spring to life and afford some relief from those baking days.
The Dr McKee Memorial Fountain has been a feature of the Bega CBD since 1967. First erected outside the old Bega Town Hall, and then moved to Littleton Gardens as part of the civic centre redevelopment between 2013 and 2016.
The fountain was erected in appreciation of the medical and public service of Dr John McKee over a period of 45 years. The contribution of Dr McKee, who died in 1982, is still something that carries weight and has significance for the town.
However, the new fountain/water feature constructed in his honour has been off more than on and never really fired in the way Bega Valley Shire Council and the community had hoped. A point highlighted by this week’s extreme weather.
Nic Hoynes, Council’s Aquatic and Leisure Facilities Coordinator says the water feature has been decommissioned for the time being.
“The circumstances are not ideal, however, the current action is required so we can maintain the health and safety of the public and Council staff,” he says.
“Legislative changes have affected Council’s ability to comply with the safe operation and maintenance of the fountain.
“As the fountain was not originally designed to meet these requirements, Council cannot currently maintain compliance whilst the fountain is operating,” Mr Hoynes says.
“Amendments to the NSW Public Health Act 2010 classify the fountain as a public swimming pool.
“The purpose of this classification is to prevent various public health incidents that have occurred in similar fountains and splash pads across Australia in recent years.
“Under the NSW law, the fountain is required to meet the same water quality, water testing and maintenance requirements as our six public swimming pools in the Bega Valley.
“As the fountain is an unsupervised and uncontrolled environment when compared to our swimming pools, it is substantially more difficult to operate safely and maintain compliance.
“Similarly, the current design of the fountain’s plant and equipment presents various work health and safety hazards and compliance requirements for Council staff and contractors to safely operate and maintain the fountain,” Mr Hoynes explains.
The fountain, which features a number of water jets that shoot randomly up into the air, was the most dynamic part of the multi-million dollar redevelopment of the town’s green space. The water invited play and had a cooling effect on the large expanse of concrete in the CBD.
Mr Hoynes says he is hopeful the water feature will spring to life again in the near future.
“Council staff are currently investigating modification of the fountain’s plant and equipment, safe working procedures and alternative operating models,” he says.
“This will ensure Council can maintain safe operation of the fountain, minimise public health risk and comply with the legislative requirements we are legally bound to comply with.”