POOL MASTER PLAN: Why it's divided council opinion
This is about a master plan. It shouldn't be about up river and down river.
A PLAN to create a multi-million dollar swimming pool complex in Grafton risks splitting the Clarence Valley, even though no funding or date for the work has been set.
Called the Grafton Pool Concept Master Plan Design, it proposes an extensive upgrade to the current Grafton Memorial Pool site, including widening the pool to eight lanes - which would make it a true Olympic pool - the addition of an indoor heated pool and beach-entry leisure pool, plus an upgrade of the existing water slide and dive pool.
The plan also incorporates a gym and fitness equipment and a splash pad, zero-depth water play area.
The plan went on public exhibition earlier in the year and a report noting the public comments on the design came back to the last Clarence Valley Council meeting on December 13.
The favourable comments for the pool outweighed the negative, but a view that Grafton was favoured ahead of the other population centres in the Valley was strongly represented among them.
Comments such as "It is only for Graftonites" and "Why are we wasting money on developing plans to upgrade this pool when we have other pools in the valley that council refuses to maintain" summarised their views.
It was a view shared by Cr Debrah Novak, who asked the council staff how they came to decide to locate the plan in Grafton and not Yamba or Maclean.
In reply, the council's director corporate works and governance Troy Anderson said the plan arose from the Aquatic Facilities Strategy.
"Very simply... the supporting infrastructure and population that goes with the Grafton facility as opposed to the other areas," Mr Anderson said.
The council's general manager Scott Greensill answered questions from councillors about the reasons for developing a long term plan with no start date.
"Money becomes available, politicians are looking for projects that they can hang on to, it becomes an opportunity to tag them," Mr Greensill said.
"We're in a position to be basically shovel-ready because we've got the plans. We're in a position to move should the opportunity arise."
Cr Ellem questioned the population, asking Mr Anderson if the population split between the Lower Clarence and Grafton was roughly equal. Mr Anderson took the question on notice.
Cr Baker said he was aware of views in the community questioning how council could be coming up with master plans, while looking at shutting down other aquatic facilities (the Ulmarra Pool).
He said there was no relationship between the two, as the master plan was a long term strategy planning for "better days ahead".
The Mayor was a reluctant supporter of the motion. His misgivings centred on the population growth issue, noting that Yamba's population growth, particularly in holiday periods, was high.
He said the long term planning was helpful, although he cautioned against too much optimism.
"Inevitably those government grants that come around election time involve fairly significant input from council funds," he said.
Cr Simmons said one of the tough decisions coming down the track involved what would happen with South Grafton Pool.
"As Cr Baker said there's some hard decisions down the track, and that will be one of the decisions to come before council."
Cr Kingsley tried to calm the claims this was a dispute between up and down river.
"This is about a master plan. It shouldn't be about up river and down river," he said.
"I can't believe that I'm still hearing that. We've been amalgamated for 10 or 12 years. It's a master plan for the future sitting on a shelf waiting for money to fund it."