The Port Macquarie News surveyed readers about issues affecting their vote at the state election on March 23. Jobs and employment, a tidal pool, health, local roads and Orbital Road/Ocean Drive made the top five. Today we look at the push for a tidal pool.
When Kent Johnson moved to Port Macquarie a couple of years ago he missed the many ocean pools he frequented in Sydney.
“I grew up with heaps of ocean pools around me from Dee Why to Manly so I know how good they can be,” he said.
The 39-year-old believes Port Macquarie needs a tidal pool.
“It is important to have a safe swimming environment, away from the sharks. It is good for people who are training and I'm not the biggest fan of swimming in chemicals.”
It is a view shared by Maureen Highton.
Ms Highton said she can no longer swim in the ocean safely by herself.
I love the ocean but I am finding it really hard to get in and out safely now that I have a walking stick...I need people to help me.Maureen Highton
She said a tidal pool would be a huge boost with people with disabilities.
Ms Highton lives near Shellys Beach where there is a small ocean pool however she believes “it is not safe because it is not completely surrounded by rocks and it is easy at mid-tide to get swept out”.
The push for a tidal pool gained momentum three years ago when the Port Macquarie Tidal Pool group formed.
Chairman Kathryn Butler believes there is significant community support.
She points to the 18 000 signatures on her petition and a Port Macquarie News poll which showed 75% of responders supported a tidal pool.
She concedes the campaign hit a snag when the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council voted that it was not a priority for council in May 2018.
A lifeline came from the state government which granted $50 000 for a feasibility study.
Ms Butler was unable to say how much a tidal pool may cost stating that the outcome of the feasibility study would shed some light once a location was identified.
The case against
Not everybody is supportive of a tidal pool in Port Macquarie.
Comments left on the Port Macquarie News Facebook page show there are concerns about whether a tidal pool should be prioritised ahead of infrastructure and road funding.
29-year-old Matthew Wilson is one of the dissenters in the debate.
Mr Wilson has lived in Port Macquarie all his life and said there are a lot of other things that need fixing in the town before money is spent on a tidal pool.
“The roads are pretty bad,” he said.
“They fix them by filling up the potholes, a year later they are back to square one.”
20-year-old Bailey Oliver agrees.
She said while a tidal pool is a good idea in theory she questioned why such a huge amount of money had to be spent in Port Macquarie.
Ms Bailey grew up in Lake Cathie and said the town often missed out.
“There are plenty of needs in Lake Cathie, the lake, the park could be improved."
Councillor Rob Turner who moved the motion at council that the tidal pool was not a priority said there was a lot of uncertainty around the proposal.
“I don’t know where a tidal pool in Port Macquarie could actually be located," he said.
"The Geotrail from Shelly Beach to Rocky Beach is likely to rule out that coastline, which leaves Oxley Beach which is problematic from an access and car parking perspective.
"Town Beach is is also problematic and would be unpopular with surfers.
“I think this is the crux of the problem.”
Cr Turner said that while there might be broad support for the concept "there is an understanding that there are significant problematic issues to overcome and it's not a funding priority for most people".
What do your state political candidates think?
Drusi Megett, Greens candidate
Many people would like a tidal pool as the surf waves are too strong and knock them down.
However the Greens support protection of our unique coastal geology – have a look at the new council geology brochure. So the Greens recommend that a tidal pool is best built on the edge of the river.
There is a feasibility study which is considering Town Beach, Flynns Beach and Lighthouse.
I would say the lagoon at Shelley is the obvious spot. At the moment, the lagoon is dangerous. One can easily be pulled out into the ocean.
If all the regulations around the creation of ocean pools can be overcome and the pool approved, then the lagoon would benefit from a concrete edge.
Note that an ocean pool has to work with nature. If it’s not positioned properly and well maintained it may be washed away.
Peter Alley, Labor candidate
As a child, I lived in the South East of Sydney and hence spent many hours at Wylies Baths, Coogee Beach, Mahon Pool, Clovelly and Bronte. These tidal pools were a valuable part of my childhood.
Some 18,000 people have signed a petition for a tidal pool in Port Macquarie.I am very conscious of our delicate coastal environment and am aware of the difficulties that we would face moving such a proposal forward.
Nevertheless, when this came to Council I supported and spoke in favour of the proposal to find out if this is both feasible and permissible.
If it is both feasible and permissible, then I will look forward to working with the community in seeking State Government funding to development plans.
Leslie Williams MP, National's candidate
I am very supportive of the push for a tidal pool for Port Macquarie which is why I advocated and was successful in securing a $50,000 grant from the NSW Government which is for a feasibility study.
A local tidal pool has been on the drawing board for many years and to finally see some positive action on the proposal is very welcome news indeed.
I have met many times with members of the Tidal Pool Committee and am encouraged by their unwavering energy in trying to achieve this much needed community facility.
I recently conducted a community survey which indicated overwhelming support for a tidal pool.
At least we as a community have taken the appropriate steps to investigate that possibility instead of simply saying ‘no it can’t be done.
Jan Burgess, Sustainable Australia
Sustainable Australia is in favour of a tidal swimming pool in the Port Macquarie area.
Tidal pools are a wonderful community resource, providing a safer swimming environment than the beach, with protection from strong waves and rips and from shark attacks.
A tidal pool in Port Macquarie would also add a significant new tourist attraction to our already rich tourist experience.
They are more environmentally friendly than an inground fresh water pool. There is no need to top up the pool, and no heavy chlorination.
Fresh water is a precious resource. Residents with backyard pools would be well aware of the costs of water to maintain them.
There has been strong community support, which is essential for a project like this.
The grant of $50,000 for a feasibility study from the state government is a good first step. Further development must be guided by that feasibility study.