PROGRESS on a new aquatic facility for Port Macquarie will be put on hold briefly while Port Macquarie-Hastings Council reviews an overwhelming response to the draft designs after a public consultation period.
The aquatic centre steering group recommended an extension of time to review community feedback and determine a way forward with a report to be tabled at the October council meeting.
In a report to the July meeting, director of development and environment, Melissa Watkins, said more than 209 submissions were received on the draft designs.
"After engaging with the community on the concept designs staff are now considering this feedback," Ms Watkins said.
"Strong themes are emerging from the data such as the desire for a 25m indoor pool, specific accessibility requirements, program room for fitness and wellbeing group activities, and more diving features."
The preferred facility option includes an outdoor 50-metre pool, indoor program pool, outdoor water play, outdoor slides, cafe, gym/fitness area, program rooms and outdoor recreation areas for mixed use.
A council report said the options assessment process identified a demand-driven facility option best met the needs of our region's current and future population.
The council reconfirmed Macquarie Park as the as the preferred site for a new aquatic centre in September 2019.
The Port Macquarie Community Aquatic Centre Committee (CACC), which includes representatives from the Port Macquarie swimming club, masters swimming club, schools, disability and access, triathlon club, regular swimmers and health services have strongly supported the inclusion of an indoor 25 metre pool as part of the proposed aquatic centre planned for Macquarie Park.
Committee spokesperson, Greg Freeman said the CACC supports the objective of regional aquatic centre that meets the broad needs of the community within an acceptable cost investment.
"A modern aquatic centre should include an eight lane, 25 metre indoor pool, to complement the other inclusions," Mr Freeman said.
"This should not be at the expense of the other proposed facilities, especially the proposed 20 metre indoor program pool."
Given current usage and practices, there is a concern that combining all 50m and 25m usage will only result in increased congestion on the new 50m pool.Greg Freeman
The CACC has consulted with council for over two years to determine the most appropriate site, the key planning milestones and the most appropriate inclusions for a regional aquatic centre for Port Macquarie.
"The longevity of a new aquatic centre is important. We need to build facilities that will last for the next 50 years, future-proofing our community," Mr Freeman said.
"Given current usage and practices, there is a concern that combining all 50m and 25m usage will only result in increased congestion on the new 50m pool.
"This 'overflow' would still be needed to be catered for in a 25m pool. Currently, swimmers are noting that the 50m pool is very busy, most of the time and a 25m pool is more suitable to a range of users, as well as provides a year round swimming environment for more users.
"In addition, the 50m pool used for carnivals up to a regional standard, needs access to a warm up warm down pool. There are a range of other identified uses for a 25m pool including short course training and events, indoor swimming, lessons, as well as other health and fitness uses. We anticipate that a 25m pool will be well utilised."
The committee noted that 20 years ago, Port Macquarie was serviced by an 50 metre indoor pool on Lake Rd and more recently, a 25 metre indoor pool on Jindalee Road. Both of these pools are now gone, with that capacity having to be absorbed into the already overcrowded main town pool.
Of the 16 coastal councils between the Queensland border and Sydney, 11 have an indoor 25 metre pool available, as well as other outdoor pool options.
Similar councils to Port Macquarie-Hastings, such as Coffs Harbour, Ballina and Tweed all have a combination of 50 metre outdoor and 25 metre indoor pools.
"The CACC supports council's plan to reconsider the options for a new aquatic centre and looks forward to council providing a planning update for this important community project," Mr Freeman said.
"Council is currently considering the feedback and results of the community consultation and will assess all planning steps in ensuring the most appropriate outcomes.
"Council has also identified the importance of the heritage attached to the existing town pool. This will broaden the community's vision for this community space."
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