PERTH council has pushed back at a McGowan government call to help pay for a pool at the WACA.
Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said it was the government’s own Inquiry into the City of Perth that warned the council against reckless financial decisions.
The pool would go into the WACA as part of a state, federal and local government “City Deal” signed by all three parties, but it was the erstwhile commissioners appointed by the state government who gave Perth council’s consent and endorsed a $25m contribution.
The council, elected in October 2020, has been reluctant to dive in, despite premier Mark McGowan telling them to stick to the plan and state government assurances it won’t be a financial burden.
At the February 23 council meeting Mr Zempilas said councillors “would welcome an aquatic facility within the City of Perth, and indeed in East Perth, but not at any cost.
“And right now we simply do not know enough and do not have all the facts to be able to make a properly informed decision.”
He said they need to make sure the design’s good and it’s financially prudent, and they’re concerned yearly running costs could be $1.4m.
“As yet the City of Perth has not prepared a business plan. This was not undertaken by the previous administration,” Mr Zempilas said.
“A business plan is necessary to satisfy section 3.59b of the Local Government Act 1995.
“We are regularly reminded, and remind ourselves, the recent Inquiry into the City of Perth, which the City of Perth is required to pay for, implored us to employ prudent financial management, transparency, accountability and good governance at all times and on all matters.
“The nine elected officials you see before you tonight take this responsibility very seriously; we heard the message and we are acting with the integrity expected and demanded of this office.”
The state reckons the centre won’t be a money sink like Beatty Park Leisure Centre which Vincent council is stuck paying for, as the attractions like slides tend to be money makers.
But Mr Zempilas said “we won’t be rushed into a decision which involves a $30m dollar capital outlay by the City of Perth, and based on the information we have before us at present, on-going running costs of $1.4m per year for 40 years.
“All up, that’s an $86m commitment from the city – more than the combined commitment of the federal and state governments.”
The council’s main concerns about the design stem from it being a six lane pool tucked between a light tower and the last row of seats – “surrounded by concrete and with no shade” as Mr Zempilas pointed out. “It’s our job to explore the best design possible.”
The council’s not actually committed its $25m yet, but has it listed for future budgets. But they have spent $244,000 on a “due diligence” report to ensure the state government’s claims of profitability stack up, and may spend up to $295,000 more for detailed designs so they can get a more accurate idea of how much the pool will cost them.
by DAVID BELL