While campaigning during the 2019 federal election Sarah Henderson committed $20 million specifically for a 50-metre pool. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

Surf Coast council approves aquatic centre plans

June 25, 2020 BY

THE Surf Coast Shire council has voted to go ahead with a plan to construct an aquatic centre in Torquay.

At their meeting last week, the council decided to not only opt for the long-awaited 50-metre pool but to also find a further $8.5 million to include a multi-purpose program/warm water pool, gym and group fitness rooms in the centre.

This raises the total project costs to $38.5 million, with $20 million to come from the federal government and $10 million from the state government.

Despite the additional costs, the council does not expect it will have to make any capital contribution because of the additional revenue-raising facilities in its plan.

Surf Coast Aquatic Leisure Centre Action Group’s (SCALCAG) Dick Danckert said this was “definitely the preferred option”.

The running costs of the pool – to be built next to the council chambers in Torquay North – are estimated to average $433,000 each year for the first 10 years.

Had the council chosen to build just the pool, it is expected the costs would have been almost twice this amount, due to the decrease in revenue.

Like Mr Danckert, fellow long-time SCALCAG member Colin Fowler said he believed the evidence supported the council’s decision.

“Having researched quite a few of the aquatic centres around the state, the versions with the hydrotherapy pool, the aqua play, the gymnasiums, cafes and all the other associated parts of the design is where you actually make your money.

“Having canvased most of the doctors, physios and chiros around Torquay, they’re all eager to get another hydrotherapy pool.”

He said he believed the running costs may well be less than what had been estimated.

“The consultants always err on the side of caution.

“At one of the aquatic facilities we took the CEO and a couple of councillors to in Diamond Creek, they built a substantial hydrotherapy pool, and basically the income from that covers the running costs of the whole facility.”

Cr Brian McKiterick moved the motion at the meeting. He urged his fellow councillors to capitalise on the funding from the state and federal government and claimed it was a “golden opportunity for this council”.

The only councillors to vote against the motion were Winchelsea Ward councillors James McIntyre and Heather Wellington.

Cr Wellington proposed an amendment to the motion that residents who lived 15 kilometres or further from would not have to contribute rates towards the pool’s running costs. However, no councillor seconded this motion.

Cr McIntyre said he did not second Cr Wellington’s amendment because he disagreed with the pool outright.

“I didn’t support the amendment because I don’t support the business case at all. I don’t believe the business case is made out for an aquatic centre.

“You’ve only got to look as far as our long-term financial plan going into the 2024-25 financial year, and what that tells us is there is a potential deficit within the budget of $612,000 starting there. I don’t think it’s good enough that we sign the shire up to running this facility at a $400,000 loss… I don’t think it’s financially responsible.”

While the council will pay the running costs, the centre itself will not be managed by an independent operator.