Sliding into successful re-opening
TALKS between Central Highlands Regional Council and Emerald Aquatic Centre leasee, Bobtrac addressing recent anger and frustration in the community over costs and other issues regarding the pool have resulted in an immediate agreement to reopen the water slides next month.
CHRC chief executive officer Scott Mason said the slides would reopen on September 21, in time for the school holidays, "which is a win for the public”.
The announcement was made in a joint statement from council and Bobtrac last week after an outpouring of public dismay on social media recently after Bobtrac announced an indefinite closure of the slides.
Mr Mason said there had been confusion in the community as to how the aquatic centres operated, and talks between council and Bobtrac would be continuing.
"The Emerald Aquatic Centre is run under a lease agreement with Bobtrac Pty Ltd. All aquatic centre leases are determined from a competitive tender process.
"Over the 17 years that Bobtrac has leased the centre, the company has made significant investment in the facility that includes pool heating, the kitchen and café facilities, four barbecues, two shade structures, and the waterslides, which will open for the third season this summer.”
Mr Mason said the council would examine community feedback about the pool, the statistics on pool users, and the fee structure - residents had complained of high pool entry fees and limited and unreliable opening hours.
He said council was now planning further meetings with Bobtrac to "work through some of the issues”.
"One of the key things is to understand the costs associated with the Aquatic Centre,” he said.
"One of the challenges is the escalating cost of chemicals so we need to understand more about that and the impact on the business.
"We're keen to know more about patronage numbers.
"For a number of reasons it has declined and we're wanting to understand that, and it's hard to understand unless you look at all factors.”
There were "some concerns” that pricing might have had an impact on visitor numbers, he said.
A season pass is $600, and for single entry visits adults pay $5 and children and pensioners are charged $4. Ten-visit passes are available for the cost of nine visits.
A family season pass (two adults and two children) costs $665 ($50 per extra child) and an adult season pass is $330 ($260 for individual child or pensioner).
Mr Mason said the pool opened for about 10 months of the year, which was longer than any other pool in the region.
"From the talks we basically want to reach an outcome for the operational arrangements for the Aquatic Centre to be fair and sustainable for both parties.
"Beyond that it's most important that we have a public facility that's heavily utilised.
"Emerald is a big community - 1400 people live in the town - and council has invested a significant amount in public infrastructure and it's important it's heavily utilised.”
He said the meetings would be about "putting it all on the table and looking at what's happening with the patronage at the time”.
"We are trying to get a picture on why numbers have dipped and what we can do to promote the facility.”
Mr Mason said Emerald had a young demographic and a high number of young families living in the region.
"And wanting to have people swimming in a controlled environment is a good thing. If the Aquatic Centre is a hub, a gathering place where people can have lots of fun and enjoy their water-based activities then that's what we want.
"The main thing is we've really got to get together and work out 'where to?' from here.
"That has started but we've still got a bit of a way to go so watch this space.”
A Bobtrac representative said the company wanted to thank the community for sharing their concerns about using the facility.
"The pool entry fees are set in consultation with council, and the company sets the fees for the use of the waterslides.
"The costs of operating the pool and the waterslides has risen considerably, which is why the opportunity to sit down with council and work through a mutually acceptable agreement within the boundaries of the lease and the legislation is welcome,” the representative said.