Why has Council changed the scope of the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre?
Extraordinary cost increases in the construction market, being felt across the private and public sectors, have increased the cost of the project to more than $50 million. It is unfeasible in its current form.
What is the new proposed scope and what is the cost?
The most sustainable and financially responsible option is two indoor warm water pools (for learn to swim, hydrotherapy and leisure activities) and a 25m outdoor pool. This is driven by analysis of the cost of construction, on-going operating costs, environmental impact and anticipated user demand.
The rescoped design would also allow for future development, including enclosing the outdoor pool and adding a children’s play area. The cost of the new proposed scope is $46.8 million, including electrification and environmentally sustainable components and initiatives.
If the project budget is $39.25m and the proposed new scope costs $46.8m, how will the difference be funded?
More money is needed for the project. Council will seek additional external funding to cover the shortfall.
Shouldn’t we just wait for the construction market to settle and costs to go down before proceeding with the project?
With construction costs increasing by $300,000 per month we need to act now. It is not known if or when costs will stabilise or go down.
Why doesn’t Council contribute more money?
Our community expects us to be fiscally responsible. Council has provided $5.75 million and is not in a position to contribute the additional funding required for the original scope. A significant additional contribution from Council would place pressure on Council’s long term financial plan and impact our ability to deliver other projects and services.
Why doesn’t Council apply for more government funding?
It is important to explore all opportunities to responsibly progress the project. This centres on securing additional funding from the state and federal governments.
Why not scrap the non pool components (gym/allied health) and just build a pool?
A gym and allied health spaces are included for two reasons. These elements support the concept of a ‘one-stop’shop’ which is important for regular patronage. Secondly, they provide the best opportunity to generate an income to help offset the costs of the aquatic components, which are expensive to operate.
Why is Council proposing to build an outdoor 25m pool instead of a 50m pool?
The proposal for an outdoor 25m pool is necessary to bring the project cost closer to budget. Further, the smaller sized outdoor pool will reduce ongoing operational costs. Importantly, the design will be future proofed so the outdoor pool could be enclosed at a later date. The 25m pool will provide an option for lap swimmers and squad swimmers.
Why not go for funding for a 50-metre pool?
We are asking the government for more funding, but we would like to put a proposal to it that has a realistic chance of succeeding, not one that would be likely to fail.
The financially responsible thing to do is what we are proposing. If the government says it is prepared to fund a 50-metre pool, of course we would look at that.
Why is Council proposing to include an additional indoor warm water pool?
An additional indoor warm water pool will allow for high demand activities including learn to swim, rehabilitation, leisure and play. We know there are more than 1000 children that will need a local, learn-to-swim option when the privately run Torquay swim school closes at the end of this term.
With a growing, active and ageing community, we know the need for health (including hydrotherapy), leisure and fitness options will continue to increase. An additional indoor warm water pool will improve revenue to help offset operating costs.
Why didn’t council include two warm water pools in the original design?
The original budget didn’t allow for it. As we’ve since had to re-scope, it has given us the opportunity to alter the design and give us best value for money.
Why is Council still pursuing the Aquatic and Health Centre?
We’re doing all we can to deliver an aquatic and health centre because we know it’s been a long held community ambition and will provide significant health and wellbeing benefits. But more money is needed to make it happen.
What Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) requirements are being confirmed?
At their June meeting, Councillors confirmed heating should be fully electric, no gas should be included in the design.
Are these additional ESD elements included in the project budget?
Yes, in the $46.8m cost estimate. Council will need to seek further funding to make the facility fully electric to meet community expectations regarding the environmental impacts and to ensure emissions reduction targets are met at all three levels of government.
Why have Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) if it costs more?
Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure major projects are 6 star Green Star certified, carbon neutral facilities and do not use gas. Building an all-electric pool, powered by renewable electricity and achieving a Green Star rating will ensure that Council is taking the lead on climate action.
These elements will also reduce operating costs, by using renewable electricity generated on site, and using purchased renewable electricity plans, which is cheaper than gas.
Why wasn’t the community consulted on the project?
The original scope of the project was determined by the federal and state government funding commitments, which meant there weren’t alternative models available to test with our community. Similarly the revised scope has been developed to suit the funding available. We have taken into account known community needs from past community engagement processes, including learn to swim, hydrotherapy and leisure activities.
What are the next steps?
Council will commission its architects to undertake detailed design of the revised scope. We will also also seek agreement from federal and state funding partners. This phase will allow for more specific costing of the project. At the same time, we will try to get more funding.
We expect this work will be finished by December 2022. Council will then receive a report in early 2023 to determine the next steps.
Can Council keep the federal and state money and put towards other projects and not build the pool?
No, this is not an option as the funding is specifically for an aquatic and health centre.
Will the outdoor 25m pool operate all year round or be seasonal?
Whilst the outdoor pool will be heated, it would operate on a seasonal basis because year round operating costs are too high compared to the amount of revenue received.
Is there a possibility our rates will rise to cover the additional construction costs or to pay for the running of the centre?
No rate increases specifically related to the Aquatic Centre are being considered
Significant funding from the federal government was announced four years ago, why has it taken so long to get to this point?
The federal government committed $20m to the project in 2018, however a funding agreement wasn’t provided to Council until May 2021. Funds were then provided to Council in early June 2021, and the project officially started in July 2021.