Perth mayor Basil Zempilas defends decision to reject community pool at WACA ground

Read more at www.abc.net.au

Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas says Premier Mark McGowan has “spat the dummy” over councillors rejecting a pool for the WACA redevelopment.

The Premier accused the council of going back on an agreement put in place between the two, along with the federal government, as part of the broader $1.5 billion Perth City Deal.

“The City of Perth has failed the local community here — their decision makes no sense,” Mr McGowan said.

But Mr Zempilas said after viewing the business plan, the council was not convinced the facility was the best deal for ratepayers.

“He and everybody else who were a party to the deal know that the aquatic swimming facility at the WACA was always subject to the business case being presented,” Mr Zempilas said.

“I’ve been surprised by some of the tone from the Premier’s statement.”

The community pool was to be located at the WACA ground, and open to the public.(

ABC News: Jacob Kagi

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Commissioners signed off in September

Perth commissioners agreed in September to contribute $25 million to the West Australian Cricket Association (WACA) aquatic facility, subject to future consideration of a business case.

That case was presented to council last night.

The ACIL Allen report found the construction cost would be at least $6.1 million higher than expected, with another projected $126.5 million required over the 40-year life of the facility to run it.

The report also found the operating costs would reduce the capacity of the City to operate and maintain existing facilities, and said there was no ‘unmet need’ established for the pool.

Councillors chose unanimously to follow the recommendations of city chief executive Michelle Reynolds and not proceed.

It is the second stoush this week between the City and the state government — on Monday, Mr Zempilas slammed a state government decision to increase the commercial parking levy.

Mark McGowan wears a suit in a room with a blue curtain behind him and australian flags, with a sign language interpreter
The Premier accused the council of going back on its deal.(

ABC News: Hugh Sando

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Plea for City of Perth to reconsider

The $25 million was set to make up the bulk of the City’s contribution to the Perth City Deal, with a further $10 million for Roe Street upgrades.

Member for Perth and government minister John Carey said the City of Perth was now making a less than one per cent contribution to the Perth City Deal.

He said the City’s report — which found a pool would not be financially beneficial to the City and ratepayers — was based on incorrect assumptions.

“Including patronage over future years, particularly given it ignores future population growth in the city,” Mr Carey said.

“We would ask the City of Perth to reconsider their position.”

A wide shot of play at night during the domestic one-day cup match between Western Australia and NSW at the WACA Ground.
Mr Carey says another location will be more expensive because land is not included.(

AAP: Richard Wainwright

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Mr Carey said if a pool was built in another location, as suggested by Mr Zempilas, it would be far more expensive.

If it was built at the WACA ground, the WACA would provide the land and it would be part of other recreational services in the redevelopment.

“The city is now looking at going alone, but we don’t know the location, we don’t know the delivery, we don’t know the cost,” Mr Carey said.

“Except that it will be more expensive for ratepayers because the WACA land is not included.”

WACA chief executive ‘baffled’

The WACA chief executive said she was ‘baffled’ by Perth City council’s decision to pull the plug on a multi-million dollar pool in the redeveloped grounds.

Speaking to ABC Radio Perth, Christina Matthews said the aquatic facility, while not essential to the development plans, would have been the ‘icing on the cake’.

A mid shot of a smiling Western Australian Cricket Association chief executive officer Christina Matthews.
Western Australian Cricket Association chief executive Christina Matthews says she’s “baffled”.(

ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch

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‘[I’m] disappointed that the community is going to miss out on what would have been a great asset,” she said.

“Probably more baffled by the decision and some of the things that have come out in the council report and discussions more than anything.”

Opposition says state needs to back city

Shadow Minister for Local Government James Hayward said the state government needed to “stop haranguing” the City of Perth for its decision.

“The City of Perth is best-placed to run its budget, not the state government,” he said.

“Instead of lecturing the City of Perth, the state government needs to support the council’s decision and work with them on the best way to deliver the $1.5 billion City Deal.”

An aerial view of the WACA Ground at sunset with the Perth CBD in the background.
The Premier accused council of ‘failing’ the local community.(

ABC News: Jon Sambell

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Mr Zempilas said a city pool should be built in the “best place possible” based on what the community wants and what a business plan determines works best.

He said it should be “bold and visionary”.

“Quite frankly, the corner of the WACA in between a light tower and the last row of the seats with no shade was not that sort of facility,” he said.

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