14 April 2020

No smooth sailing for Batemans Bay aquatic and arts centre as bitter battle emerges

| Michael Weaver
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One of the concept designs for the new aquatic and arts centre at Mackay Park prepared by NBRS Architecture. Photo: ESC

One of the concept designs for the new aquatic and arts centre at Mackay Park prepared by NBRS Architecture. Photo: ESC.

A $55 million project for a regional arts, aquatic and leisure centre on the site of the Batemans Bay pool has resulted in cost blowouts, allegations of a lack of community consultation and possible rate increases.

At the centre of the project is an ongoing debate about whether Batemans Bay should get a new 50-metre Olympic standard pool or a 25-metre pool.

The Eurobodalla Shire Council’s bold business plan for the site includes replacing the ageing 50-metre outdoor pool with a 25-metre eight-lane pool that could operate all year. The new pool area would include a warm-water therapy pool and spa, freeform indoor leisure pool with learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area.

The plan for the art and cultural centre includes an auditorium with seating for up to 500 people, a ‘wet’ arts workshop space for pottery and painting, a ‘dry’ arts workshop space for drawing and textiles, as well as meeting and multi-purpose rooms and amenities.

The existing visitor information centre would be relocated to the site, while a cafe and associated retail and administration offices are also included in the plan.

The current plan does not have room for the Batemans Bay Mini Golf, which has a lease on the land that expires on 30 June 2022. Council said on its website it is negotiating with the owners to acquire its lease so “the development can proceed in the most efficient way”.

The former Batemans Bay Bowling Club site is also not included in the plan. It was acquired by the Council from the Catalina Country Club in 2016 and has laid dormant since.

Opponents to the project have told Region Media that the community is not getting what it wants, given that a new 50-metre Olympic pool and a heated indoor pool were included in the initial plan for the site in 2016.

To fund the project, Council secured $26 million from the NSW Government in March 2018 to go toward building the centre. A further $25 million was granted from the Commonwealth Government’s Regional Growth Fund in April 2019. Council will borrow a further $4 million after initially costing the project at $46 million.

Council's plans for a new aquatic and cultural centre for Batemans Bay, adjoining the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site earmarked for future development. Photo: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Council’s plans for a new aquatic and cultural centre. Photo: Supplied

Retiree Jeff de Jager of Coila near Tuross has followed the proposal for the site since its inception and has presented a number of submissions during the planning process. He says Council is using commercial-in-confidence as an excuse for not releasing its business case for the site that “could be an expensive financial burden on all the shire’s ratepayers”.

As community submissions for the site close today, Mr de Jager said time has all but run out for people to have a say on the project. An independent Southern Regional Planning Panel will assess public submissions before Council can submit its development application to the NSW Planning Panel.

“Council has been able to tick all the boxes with this,” Mr de Jager said.

“I got involved because how can you have a town like Batemans Bay having to step down from having a 50-metre pool to now ask people and swimming clubs to go and use the Narooma pool (also 50-metre), which has as many structural issues with it as the Batemans Bay pool did.

“Our council has been bloody-minded by refusing to properly engage with the community, particularly the most relevant user groups like the swimming clubs and schools and the performing arts group,” he said.

Peter Coggan of Malua Bay has been equally vocal about the project and voices that opinion on the Our Town Our Say Facebook page for concerned residents in the shire.

He labels the project as a farce from the beginning, with Council now scrambling to earmark an additional $10 million from the sale of community-owned assets to build something that has been scaled back from the initial plan.

Mr Coggan said the project offers undersized pools, a learn-to-swim pool that is too shallow, a theatre space with no demand and an oversized gymnasium in a town that already has six gyms.

Both Mr de Jager and Mr Coggan feel Batemans Bay is losing an opportunity to have a facility and a 50-metre Olympic pool that will serve the town for generations to come.

Further, they are concerned that the developer, Otium Planning Group, rushed its strategy and assessment documents in February 2017.

“I try to be altruistic about the project, but I would hate to see Batemans Bay lose its 50-metre Olympic length pool in what is the most populous town in the shire,” Mr de Jager said.

“Sure, there is a trend to have 25-metre pools but that means we also lose people to other towns such as Ulladulla or Narooma where 50-metre pools exist.”

Council says it expects construction to start in mid-2020, opening in early 2022.

Region Media put a number of questions to Eurobodalla Shire Council and is awaiting a response.

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GARETH Barnes6:48 pm 19 Apr 20

A 25 meter pool, would be absolutely ridiculous, and a definite step backwards for Batemans Bay. Why do we need a gym in there, when there is an abundance of them in the Bay. All you would be doing is taking business away from private enterprise. Not good Council!

The last time I could sign up support for a 50 M pool was months ago. Bush fires and C virus interruptions. Is there a current online petition?

Batemans Bay needs a 50 mtr pool not a 25 mtr
The bay is going backwards as it is
We certainly do not need another gym in town

Noal Annabel7:55 pm 16 Apr 20

While the article is well written there are so many inaccurate statements and inaccurate suppositions. If the article was written to fill the region with rubbish then it worked well.

Jeff de Jager8:19 am 18 Apr 20

Please tell us all what you feel are the inaccurate statements and suppositions in the article.

Shirley. Read5:31 pm 16 Apr 20

The way the Eurobodalla area is growing we are going to need a 50 metre pool & why isn’t the Mini Golf included in the plans. It always seems to be popular.
Why a Gym when we have ample gyms already?
Too shallow learn to swim pool! What are you thinking?
Listen to the people who pay your wages and I agree with Mr. de Jager & Mr. Coggan ideas.

I think it is perfectly reasonable for our community to expect having a 50 metre pool. I have been hearing for at least a year my opinion does not matter any longer that the council has already desided and that is what we are going to get. I have not talked to a single person that is satisfied with a 25 metre pool. I have heard many say they would just rather keep the old pool. I assume it has been considered covering the old pool and giving it a facelift? The Narooma facility is great.

Jeff de Jager3:08 pm 16 Apr 20

The Narooma facility is relatively good at present, Ray, but the Aquatic Strategy adopted by council in 2017 identifies the 50 metre Narooma pool has as many structural problems as the one at Batemans Bay. When it’s time to replace the Narooma pool – in the next few years according to the strategy – it’s likely council will say it is too expensive to continue having a 50 metre pool there as they have done against good sense in Batemans Bay, the most populous town in the shire.

Michael ohara8:49 am 16 Apr 20

I remember consultations and looking at the plans in the Batemans Bay shopping Centre. I was very happy with the concept of a theatre community space and would use it. I could see a good venue attracting more acts and exhibitions as well as being a place for artists who currently by pass Batemans Bay to perform. I have never used the existing pool but could see myself using a heated pool in winter and as I get older a therapy pool might be useful. A 50 meter pool would be nice but not if having it reduces or deletes the other amenities.

Michelle Gray1:37 am 16 Apr 20

Being a former resident and seeing what other towns have to offer. I find this whole thing ridiculous! Batemans 50m pool was one of the most used amenities in the town, as is the putt putt. The town has countless gyms, does it need another? It also has a club that will hold the same amount of people, why does it need another space the same size? Just a thought, why doesn’t the town use some of the many empty shop front spaces for the arts spaces. There are brand new spaces that haven’t even had anyone in them. Such a beautiful place, why not use the spaces already built and fill the town again?

Owen Cartledge8:14 pm 15 Apr 20

What happened to ocean lap pools promise, black holed together with the raindance money?

There should be a 50 metre all-year pool. I don’t believe all the fancy extras will be utilised to their full extent and could just be expensive white elephants. I believe the Council is out of touch with ratepayers’ expectations despite it’s ‘community consultations’.

Jeff de Jager3:11 pm 16 Apr 20

Comments hereabouts, like yours, Jill, illustrate that council has not properly engaged the community over the past four years since the old bowling club was purchase just months before the last council elections.

Coral Anderson2:20 pm 15 Apr 20

I believe that the Plan D lodged with the DA shows an auditorium with seating for only 350, an oversized gym of approximately 1,000 square metres (no consultation with the community on that one either) and no provision for room for a 50m outdoor pool promised by Mayor Innes. Nor does the outdoor slide and splash pad appear on the Plan but shows as a future prospect. There are currently plans afoot for a splash pad to be constructed at Corrigans, perhaps with a water slide as well which is why Council appears to have cut it out of the Mackay Park Project. The Southern Planning Panel’s decision should be out by the end of this week.

Dr Carlene Winch2:05 pm 15 Apr 20

The replacement of a 50 metre pool with a 25 metre pool is inconsistent with ESC projections of increased population in the near future.

Stewart Gray11:28 am 15 Apr 20

50 is the only answer. To go backwards is a sad indictment on this Councils commitment to invest in the future. The fact a new indoor could be run privately doesn’t seem to resonate with the Council. This would indeed cut cost by virtue of the fact it will be privately run. Wake up, and get your heads out of the sand. You represent us not the other way round.

Karen Penrose10:21 am 15 Apr 20

What a backward move. Even swimming for leisure requires a 50 metre pool for proper exercise. My granddaughter will not be able to swim in a 50m pool in her town like I did growing up. How is this progress?

This is not what the community wants
We want our 50 metre pool and Mimi golf to stay it works so it is a must for inclusion new and updated for energy efficiency
I believe the existing design has a future development of the club site which will utilise the new centre
More to this otherwise it would not make sense to be so pig headed about no pool and no mini golf

Charlie Bell7:59 am 15 Apr 20

Batemans Bay must have a 50m pool.

Jeff de Jager3:58 pm 14 Apr 20

The plan shown is a bit out of date. The Mini Golf has been “deleted” and the shape of the building has changed after several revisions since 2017. For the latest plans, follow the link to the Southern Regional Planning Panel site, click on “Project Attachments” then “2.Plans for the proposed development”.

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