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Owen Cartledge - 13 March 2018

Owen Cartledge made the below comments at the Ordinary Council Meeting 13 March 2018.

Swimming Pools, Warm Water, Diseases and Symptoms

The recent community debate around 50m pools and aquatic centres is a symptom of a bigger problem in the ESC.

Our community is screaming for more facilities and services, not shopper surveys and citizen juries. These dreadful document are a waste of money and destined for the dumpster. Both the Mayor and the people do not want another SRV. We have a recent SRV which is now locked in for life.

Many State and National Governments have addressed this bigger problem by reallocating resources from staff establishments to facilities and services. They have used efficiency dividends and/or staff ceilings.

Some Councillors are rightfully concerned about taking on capital works which require ongoing maintenance and/or running losses.

The total ESC staff (about 450 people) could in a sense be regarded as an ongoing financial commitment made by past and present Councillors. Libraries, pools, flowers in roundabouts, ceremonial activities, and grants to clubs, could all, in some sense be regarded as loss making activities.

The difficulty the ESC faces is that most spending decisions cannot be tested by the following question which is usually posed in the private sector. “How does this spending affect the bottom line?” For this reason extra care is needed with expenditure decisions.

My sums tell me that a larger pool at Mackay Park could be maintained by a reallocation of about four average staff equivalents.

The present culture of the ESC seems to be that large staff numbers are good; staff spend most of their salaries in the shire and assist local business and employment. The ESC web page outlines the functions of Directors and Managers, and documents their staff establishment and budget expenditure. Inputs rather than outputs are presented.

The Mayor made it very clear, recently that the people of Shoalhaven will be paying and hurting for their large new pool for many years to come. Perhaps Eurobodalla residents would like to see 4 staff equivalents reallocated as a contribution towards a 50m pool. A 2% efficiency dividend on staff costs would provide between $600K and $700k p.a.

We have many worthwhile causes which may rank above staff empires and entitlements. E.g. Mr Sheehan from the Narooma Men’s Shed almost moved me to tears at the last ESC meeting. I’m sure a similar larger story could emerge from 100 or so people who are building and maintaining the Botanic Gardens.

These ongoing symptoms will continue to arise. Increased efficiencies and a reallocation of some of the $30m and $35m in staff salaries is one answer. These initiatives will need to come from you 9 Councillors. The ERA promised action on this front 6 years ago. The election policies of Community Voice and other candidates 18 months ago expressed an interest in an efficient Council.

We, the people, need to hear not about the virtues of the last Council, but about positive change and a reallocation of resources in the immediate future. I look forward to determination and grit from you the Councillors.

Council's reply

As you would be aware, Council is in the early stage of planning a new integrated Aquatic and Arts Precinct on the southern end of the Mackay Park site in Batemans Bay. We are currently seeking funds from the NSW and Australian governments for grant funding.

By way of background, Council has resolved to apply for funding to develop an indoor year round aquatic centre which would replace the existing 50-metre outdoor pool with multiple, purpose-built aquatic spaces, and an arts centre for the whole community.

The preliminary concept and business case includes: An aquatic centre with a 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access, separate 10m warm-water therapy pool and spa, freeform indoor leisure pool, that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area, amenities, an arts and cultural centre with a large flexible, flat floor auditorium with retractable seating for 500 people, dressing rooms, green room and storage, gallery/exhibition space and storage, rehearsal/ dance studio/ music room, 'wet' arts workshop space and storage (for pottery, painting, etc), 'dry' arts workshop space and storage (for drawing, textiles, etc), meeting and multi-purpose rooms and amenities.

With regard to your comments about our workforce; Council’s Workforce Management Plan addresses the human resourcing requirements for its Delivery Program. It is a strategic approach to workforce planning to ensure Council has the right employees, with the right skills, to deliver the services required by the community, both now and in the future.