New Aquatic Centre clears council hurdle despite filibuster attempts

Adelaide City Council will not block the Malinauskas Government’s plan for a $135 million aquatic centre in North Adelaide, after the Lord Mayor was forced to intervene to prevent councillors opposed to the project from delaying its approval.

Oct 11, 2023, updated Oct 11, 2023
A computer image of the state government's proposed $135 million Adelaide Aquatic Centre in North Adelaide. Image: Department for Infrastructure and Transport

A computer image of the state government's proposed $135 million Adelaide Aquatic Centre in North Adelaide. Image: Department for Infrastructure and Transport

Councillors on Tuesday night concluded a months-long debate on whether to adopt a new consolidated Community Land Management Plan (CLMP) for the Adelaide park lands and note community consultation on the Adelaide Aquatic Centre redevelopment.

The CLMP changes enable the State Government to proceed with its plan to build the new aquatic centre in North Adelaide’s Denise Norton Park/Pardipardinyilla (Park 2).

But park lands advocates have been urging the council to reject the changes, arguing the new CMLP weakens protections for the city’s green belt by removing details that were in the previous plan.

Adelaide Park Lands Association president Shane Sody has also been pushing the council to lobby the State Government to explore a brownfield site for the new aquatic centre, such as the West End Brewery in Thebarton.

Computer image of the new Adelaide Aquatic Centre, slated for the south-western quadrant of Denise Norton Park/Pardipardinyilla (Park 2) near the corner of Jeffcott Road and Barton Terrace West. Photo: SA Govt/supplied

Only eight of 11 city councillors were present for Tuesday night’s meeting, resulting in a 4-4 split on whether to approve the new CLMP.

Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin, Central Ward councillor Carmel Noon and South Ward councillors Keiran Snape and Henry Davis opposed the new CLMP, while North Ward councillor Mary Couros and Central Ward councillors David Elliott, Simon Hou and Jing Li supported it.

The tie meant Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith had to issue a casting vote in favour of the new CLMP.

Later, Lomax-Smith was asked whether the State Government had ever discussed with her the prospect of building the new Aquatic Centre on a brownfield site.

The Lord Mayor replied that she had not pressed the government on the issue but noted that Adelaide City Council made a funding request to the state and federal governments in 2021 to rebuild the aquatic centre on Park 2.

“The project is obviously in a time of difficult economic development costs, supply chains and 30 per cent increases in all land developments,” she said.

“(The state government) had to put more money than they perhaps expected.

“But we requested them to build this at this site, so I think it’s quite difficult now to say we don’t want to have it.”

The soon-to-be demolished Adelaide Aquatic Centre. Photo: City of Adelaide/Facebook

Council’s approval of the new CLMP came after the opposing councillors made two attempts to delay the vote.

Councillor Davis moved a procedural motion to postpone debate until the next council meeting in two weeks’ time.

This was initially supported by councillor Li, which would have given the opposing councillors a majority, but confusion over who was seconding the motion meant the vote was retaken.

On the second occasion, Li changed his vote and the filibuster attempt failed after a casting vote from the Lord Mayor. InDaily contacted Li for comment today.

Councillor Snape then asked the council administration to table both the old and new CLMP in the council chamber, citing a local government regulation that can allow a councillor to refuse to vote on a matter if a particular document is not tabled.

The Lord Mayor rejected this request, highlighting that the CLMPs were publicly available.

Asked by InDaily today whether his request to table the CLMPs was a filibuster attempt, Snape said: “Honestly yes.”

Snape told last night’s meeting: “We have to represent the community, and the community has, by and large, come out against the location of this aquatic centre.”

“We know it’s quite far down the track now but I don’t think we can just bury our heads in the sand with this.

“I’ll be opposing the Aquatic Centre for as long as I can.”

Keiran Snape

South Ward councillor Keiran Snape. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Councillor Davis, meanwhile, said the council should be doing “everything possible” to push the State Government to move the aquatic centre to the former West End Brewery site.

“My view is that we are not listening to our community… at the end of the day that consultation and that feedback is largely going to be completely ignored, particularly around the aquatic centre,” Davis said.

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“This is the only opportunity we’re going to get, right now, to move the Adelaide Aquatic Centre.”

But Councillor Couros said the State Government’s aquatic centre project was “too far ahead” for the council to oppose it now.

She also highlighted the council’s ongoing operating losses – estimated to be around $1 million a year – to run the existing aquatic centre in North Adelaide.

“We are a very confusing council,” she said.

“We were losing a substantial amount of money on the aquatic centre, and now we’re going to turn around and say… ‘pretty please, let’s go, let’s change, let’s have a conversation again, let’s change the site’.

“How confusing is it all? How confusing is it as a council? We flip flop, we change our messages to the state government.”

North Ward councillor Mary Couros. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Councillor Elliott, speaking in support of the new aquatic centre, highlighted the council’s $20 million budget commitment to fund demolition of the existing facility.

He also said having community facilities is “entirely consistent” with the intended use of the park lands.

“There is no win-win situation for the City of Adelaide to build on a brownfield site when we still have to front up that (demolition) money with the cost increasing and then have no community asset to deliver for our ratepayers with that money,” he said.

“We simply cannot justify using $20 million of ratepayer money to send the aquatic centre, the Adelaide Aquatic Centre, outside the City of Adelaide.

“We will be one of the only city council areas that do not have an aquatic centre or a community swim facility inside their council boundaries.”

Earlier in the debate, Deputy Lord Mayor Martin expressed fear that the new CLMP would weaken protections for the park lands.

“The CLMPs provide a protection – a point that we can raise in defence of our park lands,” he said.

“This meeting has decided to do away with those, and I hope that at some stage in the future those who voted against this might be prepared to consider an alternative approach.

“But at this stage it seems like it’s lost, I just hope our park lands aren’t.”

Martin did, however, succeed in passing an amendment asking council’s park lands management authority, Kadaltilla, to consider reinstating some of the content lost in the new CLMP back into the Adelaide Park Lands Management Strategy (APLMS).

The APLMS, which is currently under review, outlines the State Government and council’s strategic objectives for the park lands. The intent of the amendment, Martin said, was to transfer the protections for park lands in the old CLMP into the APLMS while also allowing the aquatic centre to proceed.

The old Adelaide Aquatic Centre will close in August 2024 for demolition, with the new facility scheduled for completion in 2025.

The 2023 state budget allocated $135 million for the project – $55 million more than first anticipated – to ensure the new centre is “appropriately scoped” with extra features not included in the original plans.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis today welcomed the Adelaide City Council’s approvals.

“The plan we have developed in consultation with pool users and the broader community will also deliver significant benefits for ratepayers in the City of Adelaide – who will no longer have to spend more than a million dollars each year propping up a facility which is past its use-by-date,” he said in a statement.

“I thank the Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith and the majority of Adelaide City Councillors for supporting this great outcome for the community, the park lands and the state.”

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