‘NO CONSULTATION’: Contention around council’s multimillion-dollar project hit boiling point after the Tara Pool Master plan got the green light with no community consultation. Pic: PATRICK GEE
‘NO CONSULTATION’: Contention around council’s multimillion-dollar project hit boiling point after the Tara Pool Master plan got the green light with no community consultation. Pic: PATRICK GEE

Community in uproar over council’s handling of Tara Pool

Contention around the Western Downs Regional Council's multimillion-dollar Tara Pool Master plan hit boiling point after the council allegedly greenlighted the project with no community consultation.

The WDRC announced the then $3 million project, now a $6 million project, in late 2020 as part of their COVID-19 stimulus package, stating independent engineers deemed the 50m pool had "reached the end of its life, and is in a state of disrepair".

When community members found out the current 50m pool would be replaced with a pool half the size, concern quickly grew about the ramification the decreased facility would have on swimmers, swim carnivals, and the small funding boost to the local economy during events - with a 2414 strong petition popping up online in an effort to change the council's mind.

But it failed.

 

FURTURE STARS: Avid swimmers, Felicity and Xavier Wells with Jessica Schipper at the Tara Pool. Pic: Supplied
FURTURE STARS: Avid swimmers, Felicity and Xavier Wells with Jessica Schipper at the Tara Pool. Pic: Supplied

 

Third generation Hannaford cattle farmer David Wells has two children who are members of the Tara Dolphin Swimming Club and he said the council's lack of communication had been appalling.

"The first I heard of the 25m pool going ahead was when my wife recently saw a sign at the pool," he said.

"I was told there would be community consultation, I have it written in an email that says, 'I assure you council will keep you informed as plans progress.'

"Well that never happened.

"When it comes to serious issues like this, they have really dropped the ball, the community is shocked… no one feels like they have been listened to."

Mr Wells said tensions reached boiling point on Monday, February 8, at a Tara Futures Inc Meeting, (a community group focused on promoting Tara and local business) between councillors and passionate community members.

"People are just trying to understand and get their head around their decision… I swim in the pool four times a week and not one tile is out of place," he said.

"If we get a 25m pool that's fine, as long as they provide proof that the pool is that (destitute), but that hasn't happened… we are just asking for the engineer's report.

"They need to be held accountable."

 

MOVING FORWARD: Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh. Pic: Lachlan Berlin
MOVING FORWARD: Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh. Pic: Lachlan Berlin

 

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said the council is moving forward with plans to replace the 50m pool with a 25m pool as it is in extremely poor condition and can't be used beyond the current pool season.

"The project will involve replacing the pool with a new 25 metre pool with eight lanes and an additional disability lane and ramp, heating, solar blankets, sunshade sails, state of the art filtration system as well as delivering a new kiosk and amenities," Mayor McVeigh said.

"This decision was based on several factors including the shortest lead time for construction, overall cost of the project and overall ongoing costs to maintain the pool, as well as advice from industry experts."

Past president of the Tara Swim Club David Gunther said the project could be the end of the swimming club as competitive swimmers move on to 50m pools, and members may not return in years' time once the new pool is completed.

"Sort term it will affect us big time… and moving forward, it will be devastating, people have already said they will leave, so we may not have a swimming club," he said.

"Council is telling us what we need, not asking what we want. We don't want to downgrade, we don't need something big and flashy, we just want our pool."

Competitive swimming had played an integral role in Mr Gunther's life with two of his children obtaining private school scholarships based on their sporting achievements.

"We wouldn't have been able to afford it and our kids wouldn't have been given the opportunities that they have now if it wasn't for the Tara Pool," he said.

Mr Gunther said it's more than just a pool, it's the life blood of the community and plays an important role in many people's lives.

The WDRC organised a community consultation session in August 2020, although it was 'postponed' after a consultant pulled their support and services for the Tara Pool project.

 

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