Port Macquarie-Hastings Council mayoral candidates wade into tidal pool issue

Popular spot:  The Forster ocean baths opened in 1936 and since that time there has been little change in the pool construction, according to MidCoast Council. A petition calls for a tidal pool in Port Macquarie.
Popular spot: The Forster ocean baths opened in 1936 and since that time there has been little change in the pool construction, according to MidCoast Council. A petition calls for a tidal pool in Port Macquarie.

A petition calling for a tidal pool in Port Macquarie was handed over Port Macquarie-Hastings Council in 2016.

Fairfax Media readers ranked a tidal pool second out of 10 priorities for mayoral candidates.

The mayoral candidates have their say on the issue.

Sharon Griffiths

The tidal pool is a great community initiative.

Tidal pools offer an alternative to swimming in the ocean, which of late poses risk. When I was living in Newcastle, swimming lessons and training were available in ocean baths showing their versatility.

In my first term of council I recognised a need to provide guidelines to allow community to develop and complete their initiatives.

Through persistence, the implementation of the volunteers program was developed and has seen many community-driven activities completed adding substantial value to our area.

The volunteers program has allowed projects such as Beach to Beach, a community-driven initiative to be constructed in the Camden Haven. The project is well on the way to completion.

The tidal pool will be no small task, but if the community would like to undertake the tidal pool, every opportunity should be provided to support this initiative.

Sharon Griffiths

Many community projects would not have been possible without the volunteers program.

I believe in proactively providing support to the community to develop the projects they see important.

The benefits received are easy to list – community connectivity, increased tourism and economic value for the area, improved visual appearance, sense of pride and ownership, health and wellbeing.

The tidal pool will be no small task, but if the community would like to undertake the tidal pool, every opportunity should be provided to support this initiative.

Lisa Intemann 

Personally I’d love a local ocean pool, but as mayor I couldn’t support council funding the construction of one. There are many more demanding needs to spend rates on, and it’s irresponsible to construct new assets when council struggles to maintain what we already have.

If people want an ocean tidal pool, they should approach the NSW or federal government, and even then we should question the cost of maintaining a structure that’s constantly pummelled by ocean tide and waves.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t have stable rates and an ever-expanding list of vulnerable new assets to maintain, so we must think outside the box.

If people want an ocean tidal pool, they should approach the NSW or federal government, and even then we should question the cost of maintaining a structure that’s constantly pummelled by ocean tide and waves.

Lisa Intemann

I’d like to discuss with people what they’re wanting from a tidal pool.

Perhaps we could upgrade existing assets like at Lake Cathie or Shelly Beach to make them more useable by people who need or want to swim safely in salt water.

As mayor I’ll be focusing on what our community is crying out for, which means greater efficiency in what council already provides and maintains.

Kiama ocean tidal pool, photo: Brad Chilby

Kiama ocean tidal pool, photo: Brad Chilby

Lauren Edwards 

I understand there is community interest to see a tidal pool developed in our town and that signatures from more than 15,000 residents of our total population of near 80,000 have been collected.

A tidal pool or ocean bath has not been built in NSW for 40 years or more and this is most certainly due to the development of legislation and policy designed to protect our coastal zones.

A case from Ballina NSW has been through further steps and associated costs to determine the projects permissibility and it seems sensible to observe the outcomes of the process there before embarking on the same costly exercise.

If Ballina gets approval and we proceed with investigations for our local coastal zone, a survey to test for community opinion both for and against would be in order as to drastically alter our iconic undeveloped coast, which has both intrinsic value and high appeal, is no small ask.

Lauren Edwards

In the meantime, I would urge residents to make use of the lovely little salt water swimming cove created by a netted off section of the river at North Haven.

If Ballina gets approval and we proceed with investigations for our local coastal zone, a survey to test for community opinion both for and against would be in order as to drastically alter our iconic undeveloped coast, which has both intrinsic value and high appeal, is no small ask.

Peta Pinson 

In April last year 15,401 people voiced their desire to enjoy the benefits of ocean swimming through a petition which was handed to council by Kathryn Butler.

Council has since claimed the barriers to the development of a tidal pool were ‘insurmountable’ and the request from the community has not gained support of council at this point.

I have had extensive discussions with the NSW Planning and Environment Department in relation to Port Macquarie Hastings Council’s local environmental plan policy (LEP) and the inferred impediments that the environmental conservation zone known as E2 had on the prospects of a tidal pool.

I have also met with state member Leslie Williams and Kathryn [Butler] last month to discuss opportunities for funding towards a feasibility study for the tidal pool and given Mrs Williams support and mention of it in Parliament, the pool is a very real possibility and one which I strongly support.

Peta Pinson

I was informed that council can rezone the site to an RE1 (Public Recreation Zone) or council can consent for the tidal pool to go ahead on an E2 (Environmental Conservation) zoned site with a clause stating that it has been approved by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for the unique purposes of a tidal pool only.

I have also met with state member Leslie Williams and Kathryn last month to discuss opportunities for funding towards a feasibility study for the tidal pool and given Mrs Williams support and mention of it in Parliament, the pool is a very real possibility and one which I strongly support.

Rob Turner 

I support the concept of an ocean pool for Port Macquarie and I congratulate the local committee for their energy and commitment in pursuing this project.

However, the role of the mayor and councillors is to allocate limited funds to the many competing priorities across our entire LGA.

We already have four community pools and it would be financially irresponsible for council to commit to building and maintaining another.

I’m delighted to see our local MP Leslie Williams’ support for a local ocean pool, and the state government’s allocation of $50,000 to Ballina’s pool committee for a feasibility study into a pool there. As mayor, making sure Port gets the same consideration is one of my commitments for my first 100 days.

Rob Turner

That’s not to say an ocean pool could not be a community-driven project that council supports with practical and financial assistance. Council has supported similar projects such as Lions’ Lookout, Mrs York’s Garden, and the Camden Haven’s Beach to Beach footpath/cycleway.

They have come about because passionate, committed groups inspired their community to make them a reality with council’s support.

I’m delighted to see our local MP Leslie Williams’ support for a local ocean pool, and the state government’s allocation of $50,000 to Ballina’s pool committee for a feasibility study into a pool there.

As mayor, making sure Port gets the same consideration is one of my commitments for my first 100 days.

  • Candidates’ responses are listed according to the ballot paper order.
Woonona ocean pool, photo: Tim Burke

Woonona ocean pool, photo: Tim Burke