David Moore (Letters, 22/04/2022) appears to have misunderstood the Council decision on the Aquatics Strategy and the capital costs of funding an indoor aquatics facility should Council decide to undertake this project.
Council has heard, through an extensive and prolonged community consultation, that the community wants an indoor aquatics facility and Council has accepted the Aquatics Strategy finding that there is a “need” for a facility. However, Council is rightly taking a cautious approach in their decision making. They have decided at this point to fund a feasibility study and business plan which will identify the likely capital costs and ongoing operational costs of a facility. DIAC has provided Council with their own scoping study (2018) and interim business plan (2021) but Council is appropriately engaging external consultants to consider the Shire-wide potential. Council has not decided to fund a Warm Water Pool in Daylesford as Mr Moore has asserted. Any decision about a location, or even whether to proceed, will depend on the outcome of the feasibility study, business plan, and the identification of funding options.
Mr Moore draws comparisons with the decision about the Rex. However, the decision to purchase and renovate the Rex was made by the Council of the time with limited community consultation, no overall plan and with costings that appear to have been done hastily and without expert advice. It appears that the current Council has learned the lessons of history and is taking a much more careful and considered approach to an indoor aquatics development.
Aquatics facilities in Australia are rarely funded entirely by local government. In most cases, state and federal government contributions cover most, if not all, of the capital costs. As an example, if the capital cost of an aquatics facility in the Shire was $20 million, and $15 million came from government grants, the balance would need to come from Community fundraising, other sources and the Shire Council. DIAC modelling estimates the Shire’s direct contribution as less than $3 million. This contribution would be offset by reduced maintenance costs for the existing Daylesford pool (estimated at $250K per annum). If a decision was made to proceed, the Shire would not spend additional funds (estimated at $3.2 million to $4.5 million) upgrading the existing pool with heat pumps as recommended in the Strategy for what many see as marginal benefit. Furthermore, the Shire would have options in relation to the existing pool site.
It was confirmed by Council, in response to a question from Jim Foster at the April 20 Council meeting, that an indoor aquatic centre servicing Hepburn Shire is likely attract 100K to 200K visits per annum. The DIAC interim business plan estimated 126,000 pool visits in modelling that supported a “break-even” operation. A break-even operation would substantially reduce the annual operational costs for Shire pools. Unlike the Rex, an indoor aquatics facility could be a cost saving investment.
Secretary, Daylesford Indoor Aquatic Centre
Editorial note: Tim Bach is editor of the Wombat Post but he did not participate in the editorial decision to publish this letter.