Eurobodalla Labor will tell Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) at its monthly meeting today it believes the proposed fees and charges for the Bay Pavilions will  likely exclude local families from swimming at or utilising the $69M facility currently under construction in Batemans Bay.

Councillor candidate Maureen Searson* says the council’s claims — that the proposed charges are comparatively affordable and will allow the facility to be financially sustainable in years to come — are untested and based on out-of-date data.

“I am concerned the proposed fees and charges will not be affordable for many people in the Eurobodalla,” Ms Searson said. “The Otium Planning Group Aquatic Strategy from 2017 already recognises the significantly lower incomes of the shire compared to the rest of NSW as well as higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage, which the analysis concludes will make our access to aquatic/leisure programs and services ‘price sensitive’.

“To be blunt, what that means is that it’s likely few locals will even be able to afford the price of admission.”

Ms Searson, a long-time Batehaven resident and keen swimmer, is part of the Labor team for the 4 December elections which also includes councillor candidates Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay, Claire McAsh in Moruya, Deirdre Russack in Narooma, Jack Egan in Rosedale, and David Grace of Broulee, who is the mayoral candidate for the team.

New concerns associated with the impact of the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, and the ongoing COVID pandemic suggest the local economy will take many years to return to some degree of normality, let alone to the point where local residents will have sufficient disposable income to meet the high costs of entry to the Bays Pavilions.

“Has council staff added any recent value to the consultant’s 2017 report factoring in the ongoing and significant financial and social hardships that many small businesses, the local workforce and families are still facing?” Ms Searson asked. “What is the cost benefit for potential users of the Bay Pavilions and how affordable are the proposed fees and charges?

“The cost of hiring a swimming lane at $42 per hour for use five days a week would be $210 and that for many people would be prohibitive.

“Local residents have already said, for example: ‘I will not be going at those prices or taking my grandchildren. How many families will not be able to afford these prices? How many children will not learn to swim?’.

“Another local said the proposed waterslide day pass fee meant ‘it will cost $140 to take my husband and our six children on a water slide’ which they could never afford,” she said.

The NSW Office of Local Government noted a year ago the Bay Pavilions facility is projected to operate at a loss for 10 years.

“Are the proposed fees and charges based on compensating for the projected operational loss and running the facility for profit, or based on what is affordable for the community?” Ms Searson said.

She said the council has an opportunity in the 28-day exhibition period to show it is capable of real consultation and engagement with the community it serves.  It needs to put into practice its community engagement charter, a process which it itself says ‘is a two way street’.

“We need to see that those who make decisions on behalf of our community for this landmark project listen to the whole community, and make sure this facility is available to all, regardless of their income,” Ms Searson said.

Eurobodalla Labor candidates will demand to know how ESC has calculated the proposed fees and charges for the Bay Pavilions at today’s council meeting.

“We do not need to see the council trying to cover its mistakes, attempting to cover its losses by making this facility only available to those who can afford inflated prices,” Ms Searson added.

Further information:  Maureen Searson, Labor Councillor candidate   M: 0497 452 794

*Maureen Searson — Batehaven

Specialist interests: open space and recreation, gender equity, public health (including public toilet facilities).

Did you know? Maureen loves swimming year round at beaches around Batemans Bay and Broulee, and sometimes even further afield when competing (pre-COVID) in ocean swims. She enjoys food produced by our local/regional farmers. Maureen is a mum to five children and nan to 13 grandchildren.