Issues: Aquatic Centre

On March 31 the General Manager of Hornsby Council signed off on a report regarding the financing of the Berowra Aquatic Centre. It seems to me that this report shows a distinct bias against building the Aquatic Centre at Berowra.

I ask you to take a careful look at it, (click here), and note the inflammatory nature of its wording. I would also ask that the you recall that for more than 25 years the council has been promising a Swimming Facility for Berowra.

Here are a few comments on its contents:

Page 1
Para 1: the report talks about community demands. This should read: community needs, since there are over 1000 children who are being denied learn-to-swim facilities in a location close enough for their schools to include it in their Sports curricula. The past season has seen many child fatalities in back yard pools, as well as in bathing activities in other places. National news reports that the rate of child deaths by drowning in NSW has risen to two a month.

Para 2: claims that the provision of the facility is not within the reasonable financial limits of the shire. Maybe so, but we have heard our Mayor comment that the shire is in good financial health after the Govt allowed the councillors to raise a levy to pay for the Quarry.

Para 2: claims the lack of developer contributions North of Hornsby (or Section 94 funds) is an obstacle. This is nonsense . If you look at the government's explanation of S94 funding, it specifically offers the example of a swimming pool. Since you cannot have such facilities close to the developments, they should be in a suitable location. Berowra's proposed location is close to rail, bus, highway and freeway, grouped with other, existing, sports facilities, and is right by the Community Centre. Hornsby has over $20 millions squirreled away in S94 funds that could be used to construct the Aquatic Centre at Berowra.

How much in developer-contributions was gathered from the Galston area itself to finance their horse track? Council saw fit to spend $6,000,000 of S94 funds on a sports facility there, right off the beaten track and far from bus and rail transport, which will be used only sporadically by a mere 0.02% of shire residents. We don't begrudge them this second horse track in the Galston area, but we do question the rationale of the monetary management that lies behind such a decision.

Para 3: A costly feasibility study that councillors insisted on running stated that the Aquatic Centre would need to comprise the complete proposed complex of buildings - including Gym and Sauna - if it was to break even. The decision was made that, in the light of costing, council would commit to the total project. Yet council then chose to build a learn-to-swim facility as the initial stage of the Berowra Aquatic Centre, seeing this as a better way for funding and revenue return. The proposal was to provide for the expansion to stage 2.

Para 5: A quantity surveyor prepared a cost-estimate for council of $2.63 million, and council added project management costs that brought it up to $3million. However, the project management costs would be similar if the total project was undertaken in one go. Building the Aquatic Centre in stages increases the project management costs considerably.

It was always council's intention to part-fund the pool from some money put aside by residents for this purpose in earlier years, plus the sale of land behind the Baby Health Centre that council owns and would develop.

Page 2
Para 3: The report writer acknowledges the local levy raised for the community centre, but suggests that a similar levy would not receive community support. This has never been tested. Is it that the area does not meet the criteria to qualify as "needy" and thus apply for government grants? Is Berowra more affluent than Wahroonga?

Para 5: the centre is not expected to break even. It seems to me that council has designed this project to fail by not committing itself to build the Centre as proposed by the feasibility study.

Para 6: Councillors have expressed the view that proceeds of the sale of the council depot in Burdett St could be used to fund the pool. The report goes on to claim that the funds then couldn't be used for other issues. The writer must be some clever accountant! Was he or she on board at the time of the Bio-Remediation extravagance, which lost us ratepayers over $4 millions?

Page 3: Says that additional loan borrowings of $3M are financially unsustainable and should not be contemplated by council. Does this advice come from the same clever accountant? Was this the accountant who used over $25 millions of our money to buy us a hole in the ground, and now wants to use more than twice that amount of our money to remediate the situation - which will almost certainly be to the benefit of property developers, but not to the benefit of us, the residents?

Page 4: The ABS statistics are only quoted for the 0-4 children age group in 2006 (before Child Bonus really kicked in) and exclude primary school age group and an increase in the ageing population. More clever accounting?

Page 4: Says: We find it is unlikely that the pool could be built on the current proposed site adjacent to the community centre, incorporating the approved facilities and for less than $3M. Council has the option to pursue lesser cost options. This may be so, but why pursue them now, in the middle of the current process, which has taken three years to progess from proposal, study and DA?

Suggests council can build a learn-to-swim pool in Mt Kuringai at lesser cost? Unproven and not in a user friendly position, therefore probably less likely to be revenue positive. These issues were thought through previously, so why bring them up again?

How much did council spend recently on a seminar to promote reducing our carbon foot print?

Page 4: Council should embark on a comprehensive review of the existing pool facilities. The aquatic centres committee is surely reviewing this annually. Residents and ratepayers had problems accessing Hornsby pool this past summer, but surely this is under constant review - or why does council continue with what appear to be ineffective committees and possibly ineffective staff? This of course would be a good way to slow down any progress that might be made. It would also make the available feasibility study and DA out of date, which means more time and more of our money wasted down the track.

Option 1 - Cancel the Project. It was assumed that council does not support this option, yet it is becoming increasingly likely that Council does support it, an option that is probably driven by the bureaucracy and supported by councillors who have little vision and less drive.

Is the report writer using the fact that council is coming to the end of its term and, considering the issues it has had to face and the bad will it has generated, is somewhat shell-shocked and battered, and probably glad it's all nearly over?

John Farquhar
BDCA Chairperson

The long-promised Aquatic Centre at Berowra is high on our list of current issues. This has been going to be constructed for nearly thirty years - yes, 30 years! The site has been identified, plans and surveys undertaken, $300,000 set aside (when $300,000 would have been enough to make a substantial start), and yet we're still waiting. The latest move by councillors is to begin the process all over again with another feasibility study by a consultant paid for by us!

There are nearly 2,000 primary school children in our District, with no public pool in which to learn to swim. Besides these primary schoolers, there are also hundreds of pre-schoolers and high school students, to say nothing of teenagers and adults, all without adequate swimming facilities for keeping fit and healthy - let alone for training.

Other swimming facilities in more distantB&DCA members protesting parts of the Shire are overcrowded to the point where people sometimes can't even gain admittance.

The Aquatic Centre in Berowra should be designated as 'shire-wide' and built with the use of some - but not the whole of - Section 94 funds.

There are compelling reasons for doing this:

  • It's well served by public transport - railway and buses.
  • It has easy highway and freeway access.
  • There's plenty of parking space available.
  • All the other Shire pools are either overcrowded or reaching their use-by dates.
  • There is a very large population even in the immediate vicinity - far more than 333 people - who need an adequate Aquatic Centre.
  • The whole Shire, not just the thousands of residents in the Berowra District, is in need of a proper Aquatic Centre.

Last Wednesday, 14th February, our group went to council to support Item 14 "Proposed Berowra Aquatic Centre". Here we go again, well hopefully not; as was said by one of our councillors at the last meeting attended in 2006, regarding the latest Feasibility Study, "We are the one council closest to gaining approval for Berowra's Pool". In short, this report, No. WK10/07, was accepted unanimously, after our Ward A councillor, Cr McMurdo motioned all recommendations be accepted.

The recommendations are:

1. Council endorse the Concept Plan for the proposed Berowra Aquatic Centre Option and proceed with the development of Concept Plan;
2. A Development Application (DA) be prepared and submitted for consideration by council;
3. The Aquatic Centre Working Party continue to be involved in the planning for the Centre;
4. Expressions of Interest be invited;
5. Additional funding of $65,000 be made available - March Budget Review to finance Concept Plans, supporting information and submission of a DA.

The B&DCA applaud the council for taking this much needed project to the next level. We would like all those who believe in this project to communicate their support either by phone, mail or email. We need to keep this shire wide facility on the roll, so our 1100 school students in our eight local schools and our growing number of mature residents or even just the average Ward A resident, can access a facility to enhance quality of life through safe swimming and hydro relaxation.

Have your say!

B&DCA protesters in Hornsby on Bastille Day

You can e-mail the mayor and councillors of Hornsby Shire about these matters from this website. In just two clicks you can send an e-mail message to the mayor and councillors.


top of page