A newly-formed community-based group is calling for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to build an integrated multi-use aquatic centre.
The Community Aquatic Centre Committee includes members from the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce, Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie Swimming Club, Masters Swimming Club, Port Triathlon Club, local schools and several other organisations.
Spokesperson Greg Freeman said the group had thrown its weight behind a push for the redevelopment of the aging Port Macquarie Olympic Pool, which is tired, leaking and built on poor quality ground.
“The pool has severe structural problems, which were identified over 15 years ago,” Mr Freeman said.
“It leaks up to 25,000 litres of water each day, or around nine megalitres a year, which is the equivalent usage of about 60 residential properties. This is a terrible waste of water when we are all on water restrictions.
“Our group wants to work with council not against it and can have input into what we think the funding options could be including grants.
“We believe this project would lend itself to a private and public partnership mix.
“At the end of the day, we need an affordable facility that is not expensive to access.”
Mr Freeman said the group wants to guide council through the channels of community expectations and needs for the project.
The group believes the current pool is insufficient in catering to the current and future needs of the community.
“The pool is already well booked with some schools having to look elsewhere to host swim carnivals while we are also unable to attract regional school swim events because of the dimensions of the existing facility,” Mr Freeman added.
The group says use of the Port Macquarie pool has grown from 80,000 visitors in 2003 to over 180,000 in 2016.
Coupled with the recent closure of the Lake Road and Jindalee indoor pools, the current facility is outdated and no longer reflects what is expected in a growing regional centre, the group says.
We believe this project would lend itself to a private and public partnership mix
Mr Freeman said the council, through the Mayor, Peter Besseling, has stated publicly that infrastructure renewal is a top priority for this current council.
“The Port Macquarie Olympic Pool falls into this category and with over 180,000 users a year and crumbling infrastructure, it should be near the top of council’s community infrastructure renewal priorities,” he said.
“A solution for our community should be an integrated multi-use regional aquatic centre. This would be a significant investment for the Council but it is critical that we build infrastructure to serve our growing community for the long term.
“There are business opportunities in both the infrastructure that could be provided and the way the facility could be operated, as well as place making and lifestyle issues that align with council’s stated community objectives.
“A significant amount of planning and design work was done in 1999 and 2000 but there has been no serious budget commitment from council. We need community support to make this happen to show all levels of government that we need vital modern infrastructure if we are to promote our region as a modern coastal destination.”
Mayor Peter Besseling said council has been working through a number of legacy infrastructure issues, seeing replacement or upgrades to Stingray Creek Bridge, Hastings River Drive, Houston Mitchell Drive, Port Macquarie Indoor Stadium and Wauchope pool to name but a few examples.
“Port Macquarie pool has already been identified as requiring a renovation/upgrade and councillors will consider inclusion of funding towards this in the upcoming draft 2017/18 operational plan,” he said.
Mr Freeman said the project is different from the recent push for an ocean pool as this is about infrastructure replacement.
“The community needs a modern swimming facility that services learn to swim, training squads, school swimming carnivals, exercise for the elderly and disabled amongst numerous other activities,” he said.
“Our group has written to the council expressing the urgency of the pool replacement and has started up a facebook campaign @newpoolforport to encourage community members to join the debate”
“It is our intention to harness community support for this project and to work with council to achieve the aim of a new regional aquatic centre that can serve the community for another 50 years. We aim to provide council with guidance as to the type of facility the community needs and look forward to the opportunity to present our views to council and the broader community.”
Mr Freeman said the group’s Facebook page could be found by searching New Pool for Port.