Temporary pool lifeline

The North Bellarine Aquatic Centre. (Ivan Kemp) 370001_04

Geelong council has unanimously resolved to keep the North Bellarine Aquatic Centre (NBAC) open for the next two months following backlash over its previous decision to close the facility from April to November.

Mayor Trent Sullivan raised an item of urgent business at Tuesday night’s meeting asking council to extend the season of the NBAC, which was due to close at the end of March due to financial constraints.

Having only opened in November last year, news of the facility’s impending closure created an outcry among residents.

The item, prepared by Mayor Sullivan and fellow Bellarine Ward councillor Elise Wilkinson, originally proposed to guarantee the NBAC would remain open between April and October 2024, albeit with reduced operating hours.

However, council regulations state items of urgent business have a maximum budget of $100,000, meaning the new proposal could only commit $96,000 to open the pool for two months and instruct council officers to prepare a report detailing how the pool could be funded the remaining months.

Mayor Sullivan said core facilities such as pools “aren’t just a want, they are a need”.

“Aquatics across the Bellarine, across our wider municipality, has been a passionate topic for many, many years,” he said.

“And when we saw the announcement… the NBAC is to close over winter hours, the outpouring of support for it to remain open has been incredible. To have a facility open in just November last year and to possibly close in its honeymoon year is unfathomable by many.”

The mayor said the council was in a “very difficult financial situation” when the budget proposing the winter closure of its outdoor facilities was formulated, but that the situation had changed since then.

“It was a tough budget, it really was, but our situation has been increasingly looking up,” Mayor Sullivan said.

“We have a responsibility to our community that we can deliver assets like this and…keep them open for them. What signal does it send to those around us if we open new buildings only to close them?”

Cr Wilkinson said the NBAC had been “a godsend” for many Bellarine residents.

“Public pools, like public libraries, they’re essential places within our community,” she said.

“The idea of opening till May does provide us with time to look and discuss hours going forward.”

Deputy Mayor Anthony Aitken supported the motion but voiced his concerns around the City’s current funding models.

“This isn’t actually a solution, it’s just a short stay of execution for the facility,” he said.

“The community is demanding, and has every right to demand that they should be available and a normal service provided in their local community. Our current operating models and our current financial support that we’re putting for them clearly do not match the community’s expectations. We need to properly resource and fund our facilities that we have in the community.”