Let me start of by saying that the concept of a “no cost” ocean pool at or near Shelly Beach is a “nice idea”.
One of the things you learn about politics, and most of the public would have figured this one out by now, is that ideas are tossed around all the time, idea’s cost nothing, they don’t require any level of congruency or integrity as “they’re just ideas”, they don’t require money because again “they’re just an idea” and they generate lots of publicity because ideas get people talking (Which Politicians love).
For every project idea you’ve heard on the news, probably 1 in 100 have ever actually gone ahead. But all of those 100 helped gain the politician who mentioned them free publicity.
This is where I will give Cr Jeff Johnson credit, he has mastered the “art of the idea” every other week he pushes out a thought bubble that generates publicity and discussion.
Everyone in business knows, ideas are just brain farts and have little to no value at all in comparison to execution, I guarantee you for every business success, there has been at least 100 other people with the same idea, it’s just one individual executed it better.
The problem with ideas is when they meet the concept of reality (Classic example of this Nationally is the Bullet Train, by the way, I’m not saying a Bullet Train is physically impossible, I’ve rode the Shinkansen across Japan, but it doesn’t add up right now and there are impractical hurdles).
Ocean Pools across the country (many of which were built post World War 2) were pretty neat things at the time, In recent history however, most of the councils that have them under control have been rationalising them and closing them.
The biggest reason is cost, places like Wollongong have had maintenance costs of approx 200k per year to keep them operational.
There are a whole bunch of other environmental, and logistical reasons but lets just focus on the cost aspect for now.
When Cr Jeff Johnson Proposed an Ocean Pool for Ballina he said it would come at absolutely no cost to council, and the whole thing would be produced by volunteers. Pie in the sky stuff, but of course on that basis council gave the idea it’s blessing, the shark attacks gave momentum to such an idea at the time so away the idea went.
A few months later, the idea met reality, you need professionals to do up your planning documentation for approvals, so Jeff asked council for $15,000 to get the approvals, this is the point at which I said no and now I will explain exactly why.
Whether he agrees with this or not, Jeff through his free publicity for his idea has created the expectation that council will build an ocean pool.
This is wrong and this needs to be made 100% clear.
Over a year and a half ago, Council went to the ratepayers to ask for an increase in rates to support the upgrades of the pools in Ballina and Alstonville, this was a big deal and a massive expense, people’s pensions aren’t going up 5% a year but the rates will under this proposal.
There is no way under any circumstances can anyone justify council building a third pool(At the estimated cost of between 1-2million). We shouldn’t be spending money on wants, only what we absolutely need and can logically justify.
Many of those who I’ve spoken to want council to minimize the expenditure as much as possible on the Ballina and Alstonville upgrades i.e. do a smart upgrade and don’t get anything that would be considered a want (as opposed to a need).
To spend money on an Ocean Pool is an absolute slap in the face to ratepayers, and if we can spend less on the Ballina and Alstonville upgrades, we have an obligation to do so and return that money to the ratepayers.
Furthermore, an Ocean Pool will result in $200,000 a year of ongoing maintenance which again, when I look at our priorities for our other facilities across the shire, it cannot be justified in the scheme of things.
For that reason, myself(Ben Smith), Paul Worth and Keith Johnson will be bringing a motion to council this August to ensure council has zero financial obligations to the idea of an ocean pool and that it remains that way.
It’s a nice idea, but for now that’s exactly what it should stay as.