Less than a year ago, the concept of an ocean pool at Ballina seemed hopeful, at best, but the drama that has surrounded recent shark sightings may have given it an extra push.
That and the hard work of dedicated volunteers, who say they may soon have a plan to take to Ballina Council.
In December last year the council provided in principle support for the project, which was proposed by Cr Jeff Johnson.
Since then a Ballina Ocean Pool Committee has been incorporated and meetings held with qualified academics, NSW Government officials and Ballina Council’s planning department.
According to the pool’s proponents Cr Jeff Johnson and John Wise it’s now time to start on the necessary planning documents to make it become a reality.
The proposed pool will be located on the rock shelf between Shelly and Lighthouse beaches at East Ballina. Investigations have shown that the proposed location lies within the Coastal Reserve, which is managed by Ballina Shire Council.
The site was surveyed earlier in the year and the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania have now completed some preliminary structural design work based on that site-specific information.
‘The Australian Maritime College is one of the world’s leading maritime colleges and is involved with major design projects,’ said Mr Wise.
‘Shelly Beach local Jazmine McInerney is a student at the college providing a local connection,’ he added.
‘An ocean pool in East Ballina would provide a safe alternative swimming option for both residents and tourists. They are relatively inexpensive to build, have minimal ongoing maintenance costs if designed correctly and would be free to use all year round,’ said Cr Johnson.
‘I’m still of the belief that grant funding and the support of local businesses will cover the full cost of construction, said Cr Jeff Johnson Where Ballina Council can help is through assisting with the preparation of the necessary planning documents,’ said Mr Johnson.
An ocean pool hasn’t been built in NSW for more than 40 years, which was before the introduction of the relevant state legislation that now applies. A delegation from the Ballina Ocean Pool Committee recently met with representatives from Crown Lands in Grafton.
‘The meeting was very positive and it’s now time to progress through the regulatory hurdles. Both Ballina Council and Crown Lands have provided in-principle support which is critical,’ said Mr Johnson.
Recent meetings with the director of Marine Biology at Southern Cross University, Professor Peter Harrison, and his colleagues Dr Kirsten Benkendorff and Dr Daniel Butcher have also been very encouraging.
‘Professor Harrison expressed his excitement for the pool and the interaction it will enable the public to have with the ocean and the marine environment,’ said Mr Wise.
‘It is our objective to build a pool that is integrated in the natural setting, and interacts with the ocean in that it will be fed by tide and wave action’, he added.
‘I have spent years collecting data on the 60 or so ocean pools on our NSW coast. The aim is to construct an ocean pool that incorporates the best design principles of some of the existing ocean pools that will work at this location, said Mr Wise.