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Drastic reductions floated for Surf Coast pool project

June 23, 2022 BY

The Surf Coast Shire will consider dropping a 50-metre indoor pool from its long-awaited aquatic centre, slated to be built in Torquay North. Photo: UNSPLASH

THE Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre is “unfeasible in its current form”, according to a sobering assessment from the Surf Coast Shire, and the nearly $40 million project will not only need more money but will also be drastically reduced under a plan put forward by shire officers.

A report to be presented to councillors at their meeting on Tuesday, June 28 states the cost of the present design with a 50-metre indoor pool, slated to be built in Torquay North, has blown out to more than $50 million due to “extraordinary cost increases in the construction market, being felt across the private and public sectors”.

The report states the shire “is not in a position to contribute further to the cost of the facility” but as construction costs were increasing by an estimated $300,000 each month, “it is vital that a decision on the future of the project is made as quickly as possible”.

Of the seven design options assessed, councillors will be recommended to vote for Option C, which will create a 25m seasonal outdoor pool and two indoor warm water pools (for learn to swim, hydrotherapy and leisure activities) as it is the “most sustainable and financially responsible design option”.

The new design is estimated to cost about $44 million, with environmental design improvements ranging from an extra $2.7 million to fully electrify the facility through to $5.1 million to achieve a 6-star Green Star Rating.

The report recommends proceeding to the next stage of design while pursuing more funding from the state and/or federal governments, before “reaching a hold-point by the end of 2022 when the project’s viability will be re-assessed”.

“To date Council has spent $300,000 on design and planning and this will rise to $1.8 million by the hold-point.”

The report states building an aquatic and health centre “is a long-held community ambition.”

“More than 1,000 children will need a local, learn-to-swim option when the privately run Torquay swim school closes at the end of the year. With a growing, active and ageing community, we know the need for health (including hydrotherapy), leisure and fitness options will continue to increase.

“It is therefore important to explore all opportunities to responsibly progress the project. This centres on securing additional funding from the state and federal governments.”

The shire is already bracing for possible backlash from the community to the proposed changes, as “officers anticipate a mix of reactions to these challenging circumstances”.

The Surf Coast Leisure and Aquatic Centre Action Group (SCALCAG) has been leading community lobbying for the pool for years, and spokesperson Colin Fowler said SCALCAG was “reluctantly agreeing” to the proposal to build a 25-metre pool “if that’s the only way we can do it, but let’s see what happens”.

“A pool is better than no pool.

“It’s going to happen, it’s just how we’re going to do it and if there is somehow or other getting some funding to go down the original path.”