Why has Council changed the scope of the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre?
The impact of the Armstrong Creek Commonwealth Games legacy community pool facility has been assessed and a change in scope was recommended by our consultant and officers to better meet the short-medium term need of our community.
Further, extraordinary cost increases in the construction market, being felt across the private and public sectors, increased the cost of the original project to more than $50 million.
What is the rescoped design and what is the cost?
The most sustainable and financially responsible option is an indoor 25m pool and one indoor warm water pool (for learn to swim, hydrotherapy and leisure activities). This is driven by analysis of the impact of the Armstrong Creek facility, cost of construction, on-going operating costs, environmental impact and anticipated user demand. The cost estimate is $46.8 million, including electrification and environmentally sustainable components and initiatives.
The rescoped design would also allow for future development, including a second indoor warm water pool and indoor/outdoor water play/leisure area.
If the project budget is $43.25m and the rescoped design costs $46.8m, how will the difference be funded?
Council resolved in February 2023 to underwrite the $3.57m shortfall between the current cost estimate of $46.8m and the confirmed budget. Council will pursue opportunities for additional external funding to reduce the underwrite amount.
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 had already provided $5.75 million to the project, and resolved in February 2023 to also underwrite the $3.57m shortfall. Council is not in a position to contribute the additional funding required for the original scope (which was above $50m). 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. Recently securing $3m from Regional Development Victoria is of great assistance to the project. Council will consider other funding opportunities as they arise, however we are mindful that these will be limited.
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 indoor 25m pool instead of a 50m pool?
The proposal for an indoor 25m pool is necessary to bring the project cost closer to budget. Further, the smaller sized indoor pool will reduce ongoing operational costs. The 25m pool will provide an option for lap swimmers and squad swimmers.
Why not go for funding for a 50-metre pool?
We have been seeking additional funding from the government with some success, but we would like to propose an option 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.
Why is Council proposing to include an additional indoor warm water pool in a future stage?
An additional indoor warm water pool in a potential future stage will better allow for increased need for learn to swim, rehabilitation, leisure and play when demand is clear and funding becomes available. Two warm water pools will enable one dedicated to learn to swim and one dedicated to warm water exercise and rehabilitation, with opportunities to increase programming of activities across both pools as required.
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. Once the project is completed the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre will decrease the travel time for our community to access a similar facility elsewhere.
What Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) requirements are being confirmed?
At their June 2022 meeting, Councillors confirmed the facility will be all-electric. There will be a range of other ESD initiatives included in the facility in line with Council’s Environmentally Sustainable Council Facilities Policy.
Are these additional ESD elements included in the project budget?
Yes, in the $46.8m cost estimate, 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.
A Community Reference Group was established in late 2021 and met most recently in February 2023. The group includes community members with a wide range of excellent experience and knowledge, and a range of perspectives. The group are integral in informing the discussions on the project particularly on scope components and operational considerations.
What are the next steps?
Council has commissioned its architects to undertake detailed design of the revised scope. We will 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 are continuing to explore all avenues to secure more funding.
We expect this work will be finished by the end of December 2023 and a tender process will be run, with a contract award in the first quarter of 2024.
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.
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 five 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.