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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Objections to Ballina Ocean Pool based on misinformation say supporters

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Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson says the recent scare campaign and protests against the proposed Ballina Ocean Pool at Shelly Beach are based on misinformation.

Concerns have been raised around the potential negative environmental impacts of the pool on the rock shelf, that it will destroy the surfing due to water backwash, that the costs of maintenance will be significant and that there was no consultation with the community.

Councillor Kieth Williams who is questioning his support of the ocean pool proposal says that there has been significant community concern raised with him.

‘I have been supporting the project to get to this point but I am reconsidering my position on it due to the representations I have been receiving from the community,’ said Cr Williams.

Ecology of rock pools

Cr Johnson says that over the last four years they have been looking at the project they have had experts in to address these areas of concern.

‘We have looked at the ocean pool with the aim of ensuring that it has no impact on the surf, that it has minimal impact ecologically, that is it accessible to the elderly, young and people with disabilities and we have sought out expert consultants to look at these areas to ensure that this is the case,’ he told Echonetdaily.

According to the studies they have had done there wouldn’t be a significant impact on the ecology of the rock platform. Cr Johnson points out that the pool would cover less than ten per cent of the rock platform and that studies by staff from the ‘Southern Cross University’s Marine Ecology Research Centre found that the Shelly Beach rock shelf “supports a relatively low diversity of common intertidal species, none of which are identified as rare or of conservation significance”. In fact, the section where we have chosen as the most suitable location for the pool was “found to support significantly lower richness and diversity than other rock platforms”’. 

Impact on surf zone

Associate Professor Rob Brander From UNSW was asked to look at the potential impact of the pool on the surf zone and concluded that it would in ‘no way detrimental to any existing physical processes involving breaking waves, alongshore water movement and currents and the transport of sediments. However, this has been disputed by an engineer who is a member of the Surfrider Foundation said Cr Williams.

The Surfrider Foundation has told councillors that they are considering enlisting Speeds Reef, that is off Shelly Beach, as an endangered wave and will potentially ‘engage an associate coastal geomorphologist’ to challenge the assertions of Associate Professor Brander.

However, Cr Johnson has pointed out that many members of the voluntary committee are surfers themselves as is Associate Professor Brander and that was a key requirement in the site selection process.

Need detailed design specs

Talking to Echonetdaily Councillor Williams made it clear that ’we don’t have the engineering designs for the proposed ocean pool so there are many unknowns regarding the project. Until you’ve got the proper designs we won’t know exactly how it will function. I don’t want to be in a position where we green-light a project just because we’ve got funding.

‘Many people have pointed out that they use and love the area as it is. We need more information to make a clear assessment about its impacts on the ecology, the surf and the costs of ongoing maintenance,’ he said.

In regards to cost Cr Johnson has pointed out the fact that the ‘Ballina Ocean Pool will cost less than most (if not all) other Council facilities and the community (and visitors) can use it for free’ due to its low maintenance design. 

With council elections due in six months Cr Johnson says that ‘it’s a real shame that this issue has become a bit of a political football’.

‘I am surprised at the change of position from three of the local councillors who previously supported the project,’ said Cr Johnson.

‘The process has been subject to detailed assessment throughout that have actively addressed these concerns long before they were raised.

‘It is our aim to design a modern Ocean Pool that will set new standards in Engineering, including minimising periodic maintenance, enhancing biodiversity, having no impact on the beach for other beach users, and minimal (if any) environmental impacts.’

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  1. Another bloody stupid idea, brought to you by the government that defunded emergency services.
    It’ll be full of sand in no time.

  2. The JEFF JOHNSON OCEAN POOL, we don’t want or need another pool! Council just recently cost the Ballina ratepayers mid $30 odd millions after cost blowouts refurbishing the shires 2 existing pools, we also have Shaws Bay, Lake Ainsworth, a heap of beaches and I think there is pool off Ross Ln. If this isn’t sufficient enough then I suggest Jeff and the rest pay and build a pool in their backyards and invite everyone else around to enjoy it instead of expectiing the rate payers to indulge them. The existing pools already run at a loss so that the public can afford to use them. Let’s hope we soon learn who the rest of the councilors who support this are so we can vote them out at the next election!

  3. It strikes me that when property developers want to make money with often inapporopriate developments they almost almost get their will. Quite often at the expense of nature, neighbours and ratepayers.
    If a free-to-use facility like this is proposed, something that will benefit the entire community, at a far lesser environmental footprint, every Tom, Dick and Harry come up with spurious objections. Get real, get your values right and get on with it.

  4. As someone who grew up in Newcastle, a city with two major ocean baths, I can’t understand the objections to the Ballina proposal. A pool fed by the Pacific Ocean and situated on the shore line is in another league from the stationary, chlorinated variety as can be. A Ballina ocean pool would put the town on the map and attract visitors from far and near.

  5. Sounds like a good idea. Why not have an ovetrall pool? People who cannot afford to pay for pool in town can go. People who do not currently use the existing pool may go. The proposed pool is low impact and low maintenance. Had there been a study done on possible income reduction to existing pool?

  6. Bring on the pool! There is nothing like swimming in salt water and a safe environment by the ocean. For families, it would be a healthy, safe and free activity. They are at most Sydney beaches. There is ample coast line to accommodate an ocean pool in this area. It will be another attractive option for locals and holiday makers alike. With our climate, I believe it will be well used year round. Another great alternative in getting kids off screens and active.

  7. I think the ocean pool would be a great asset to Ballina . I grew up swimming in ocean pools and sea water baths around Sydney and the South Coast .
    I can see that the “Nanny State” attitude strikes again !

  8. ‘I am surprised at the change of position from three of the local councillors who previously supported the project,’ said Cr Johnson. ”

    I’m not. It seems this council cannot make a decision and stick to it. They are getting nervous about their positions with an election looming this year. It would be good to see more community minded residents put up as candidates. This mob are stale.

  9. I grew up in Cronulla where there are several rock pools dating back to the early 20th century. I learnt to swim there. The water is refreshed naturally twice a day by high tide. There is practically zero maintenance. There is only clean salt water – no chlorine which my eyes can’t stand. If Ballina is lucky enough to get one I’ll certainly take my family there regularly.

  10. What a great idea. Somewhere safe to swim when its too dangerous to swim in the ocean. I have been waiting for someone to finally make this happen. My only opinion would be can you make it look more natural instead of looking like a standard pool shape. If it could blend in with the rock so it actually looks like a big rock pool that you can do laps in would be nice. Because at the end of the day I’m guessing it’s all about digging into the rock to make the pool??? Maybe this would help make it more accepted for those who oppose it 🙂

  11. As a young child, my Dad used to take us to the old Shelly Beach ocean pool where we learnt to paddle and learn about waves dumping us, gaining respect for the ocean from a very young age. We have great memories of our time there. Now in my 50s, I’m thrilled to learn that an ocean pool will hopefully be built at Shelly Beach again. I will take my grandkids there for sure and reminisce about my childhood.
    Ocean pools around Sydney are iconic and safe – I’m sure this one will put Ballina in the company of Coogee, Bronte, Cronulla, etc. etc.. of those beaches with wonderful ocean pools.

  12. There are enough water options in and around Ballina – all of which are free. Why are council spending money on this, it doesnt make sense.
    You might be better off putting the money into policing that exact area given the amount of violence occurring!

  13. I can’t think of anything more natural — and also safe — as swimming in a large pool protected from thunderous surf, jelly fish, sharks, corn flake seaweed and jet skis rather than expensive chlorinated pools. Please make it as “natural” looking as possible. Maybe a little landscaping/seascaping. Please prevent barnacle endeavours such as coffee sellers, towel renters, pay parking, ice cream vendors ….


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