Cleveland Aquatic Centre renewal needed says community petition

Ms Debbie Swain delivering the petition to Redland City Council

A petition for improvements to the quality and availability of public swimming facilities in the Redlands, including refurbishment or replacement of the Cleveland Aquatic Centre, will be presented to City councillors on Wednesday.

Cleveland Aquatic Centre

The Cleveland Aquatic Centre dates back 45 years to November 1977 when Redland City’s first and only Olympic length swimming pool opened to the public.

Cleveland Aquatic Centre
Principal petitioner Ms Debbie Swain collected more than 200 signatures

Admission in 1977 cost 30 cents for adults and 20 cents for children under 15. Today, the Council owned facility which includes the 50 metres pool, two smaller pools and a water play area is managed by Belgravia Leisure. General admission charges are currently $6.50 for anyone over three years of age.

When the 50 metres pool was built in 1977 the Redlands population was less than 30,000. With more than five times that number of residents now, Redland City still only has one 50 metres Olympic length pool.

Back in 1977 there was much local pride in the new swimming pool. Local politician John Goleby told the Waterloo Bay Apex Club that the new pool was built to such a high standard that it could be used for Commonwealth Games swimming events.

At the official opening in March 1978, Local Government Minister Russ Hinze praised the Council, saying the Cleveland Olympic pool had been “built for the future”.  

Olympic champions trained at Cleveland Aquatic Centre

Cleveland Aquatic Centre
Ashley Callus and other swimmers at the Cleveland pool in October 1998 – Photo: Redland Museum
Alicia Coutts in 2012 – Image: AIS video

Swim coach David Urquhart managed the Cleveland Aquatic centre for 22 years until 2005. During his tenure, the pool spawned two Olympic champions.

Ashley Callus from Sheldon won gold in the 4X100 freestyle at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Alicia Coutts from Birkdale, who trained for many years at the Cleveland pool before progressing to the AIS, was a standout at the 2012 London Olympics winning five medals.

Cleveland Aquatic Centre needs $15-20 million spend

Cleveland Aquatic Centre
Redland City Council response to Courier Mail story about Cleveland Aquatic Centre

Back to the present day, and the Courier Mail recently reported that the Cleveland Aquatic Centre is “plagued by broken pipes, cracking paint, mouldy showers, no hot water, and sewerage leaks”.

In response, Redland City Council says it completed pool works in 2020 including new filters, retiling, painting and some electrical upgrades.

The Council says it’s allocated for $416,000 capital expenditure on renewal works in this year’s Budget and “has no forward plans to close the Cleveland Aquatic Centre.”

But what are the Council’s ‘forward plans’ for keeping the Cleveland Aquatic Centre in good shape for decades to come?

Cleveland Aquatic Centre is "not fit for purpose" says report
Cleveland Aquatic Centre is “not fit for purpose” says report

Councillors were told confidentially by Deloitte in 2019  that the Cleveland Aquatic Centre was “not fit for purpose”.  The deteriorating condition of the aquatic centre and the need for urgent capital upgrades to keep the pool operational into the future were highlighted in a 2014 report to Council by specialist aquatic engineers J.H. Cockerell.

The Council was told that refurbishing, renewing or replacing the Cleveland Aquatic Centre’s various assets would require expenditure of $15-20 million with a spend of $8.2 million by 2022 and further spending of $9.4 million by 2029. These were 2018/19 dollars – there’s been significant inflation since then.

With maybe $2 million spent in the last few years, have all the problems identified in 2014 by J.M. Cockerell magically vanished?  Or is there still work costing several million dollars to do?

Instead of working methodically and transparently over the past decade to keep the Cleveland Aquatic Centre fit for purpose, the Council has spent millions secretively on fanciful schemes for new aquatic facilities.

A much-vaunted Surf Lifesaving Centre of Excellence flopped. A proposed Olympic whitewater centre at Birkdale was, for a while, going to have a new 50 metres pool but this isn’t in the current plan which has attracted strong community opposition.

Surf lifesaving partnership plan

In late 2015, a few months before the 2016 local government elections, Mayor Karen Williams proposed that  Redland City Council explore options to accommodate the relocation of Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) state headquarters to the Redlands, with the potential for the facility to also include a new community pool and emergency services precinct.

A Council propaganda announcement published on 19 November 2015 claimed that “a potential $50-$60 million surf life-saving centre of excellence” could bring an estimated “200 ongoing full time local jobs” to Cleveland. “The idea is for this facility to be a one-stop shop for emergency preparedness and response,” said mayor Williams.

“The community could also get a new pool out of this deal” said mayor Williams.

The Council budgeted $1.442 million for “consulting services delivering design  development of the SLSQ proposal” during the 2016/17 financial year according to a confidential report to Council in August 2016.

In October 2019 the Council announced that it had signed an MOU with SLSQ for a $71 million Surf Lifesaving Centre of Excellence and Emergency Services Precinct which would include “four new public pools and potentially other facilities such as water play areas” and work on the new facility should be underway by mid to late 2019.

Sadly, the Council and SLSQ failed to interest other levels of government in funding the new facility. In mid-2019 the Council was told that Surf Lifesaving Queensland had bailed out.

The Olympic whitewater dream

From 2015 southeast Queensland mayors had been working on plans to bid for hosting the summer Olympics.

In February 2019 the SEQ Council of mayors  published a feasibility study for hosting the 2032 games. This study identified Redlands as a potential venue for the canoe slalom but also noted that the event could be held at the existing whitewater stadium in Penrith NSW.

A couple of months later, on 13 April 2019, Redland City Council announced that it had signed a deal with the Federal Government to buy land in Birkdale “for the purpose of conservation and community use”.

In 2021 the Council consulted with the community regarding future uses of the Birkdale Precinct. The Council said a proposed “aquatic centre of excellence” would include the city’s new Olympic standard world championship level 50 metres pool.

Petition opposing the proposed Olympic whitewater centre

The Redlands community didn’t support the Council’s ideas. There was little interest in an aquatic centre of excellence. Most of the 1,680 people who responded to the consultation process wanted the Birkdale land’s future use to maintain its environmental and heritage values.

But the Council wasn’t listing to the community. It was determined to have an Olympic standard whitewater facility in the Birkdale Precinct. In fact, this decision was locked in by councillors at a special secret meeting on 1 April 2021, a few weeks before the bogus community consultation ended.

In 2022 the Council served up its Birkdale Community Precinct draft master plan for further community consultation. The Olympic standard whitewater facility was the centrepiece together with a resort style water play pool but no new 50 metres pool.

Royal Lifesaving Australia report

Royal Lifesaving Report – 2022

A 2022 report by Royal Lifesaving Australia says, “In the next 10 years, up to 40 per cent of public aquatic facilities that local governments own will need to be replaced”.

The report says:

These facilities are essential for the provision of learn-to-swim, water therapy, leisure, physical activity and swimming, which are activities that over 5,000,000 Australians regularly attend. In addition to these benefits they are places that create social cohesion. They are an essential service for our communities to access now and, most importantly, into the future.

Petition to Council

The petition that councillors will receive on Wednesday says:

The Council meeting is on Wednesday 11 October starting at 9:30am. Members of the public can observe proceedings from the public gallery or watch the meeting live streamed.

Redlands2030 – 8 October 2023

0 thoughts on “Cleveland Aquatic Centre renewal needed says community petition”

  1. What is the point of lodging a petition with this Council, and these Councillors…they merely pass everything off as an “operational issue” and send it to the CEO for response. Rarely if ever do any of the Councillors follow up on the matters raised, and rarely if ever does the Council ever consider the matters raised.

    The flick-off to the CEO is an abrogation of their obligation to manage for the public interest and we are yet to see any response that comes near what some might call “protecting community interest”!

    The more petitions that are lodged the more it is obvious the Council isn’t listening to the community.

  2. Sadly a majority of Redlands Councillors live in a bubble, there seems to be no trouble spending $200m on sporting fields in a flood plain in Mt Cotton, or $100m on an unpopular White Water Rafting facility in Birkdale. I was advised that during COVID the Government gave $2m to Redlands to be spent on the Cleveland pool and some on the Escarpment at Mt Cotton butting onto Mayor Williams new Glamping cabins. How much of that money went to the pool, I would expect not much when you see the state of the only Council owned public pool in our City. The promises about large swimming pools at Birkdale seemed to be forgotten in the latest Council plans. After the community have to do petitions to highlight the issue the local Councillor has a light bulb moment and puts a sign up advising the Pool manager will hold stakeholder meetings, wow does he not know the pool managers knows the issues and those stakeholders have been complaining for years and Council sits on their
    hands. Just same old same old reaction by Council

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