By Brent Heber, Greens Candidate for Kogarah, NSW 2015.
This morning I was given the chance to address the rally outside the closed Bexley Pool. I’ve touched on the local politics (or lack thereof) that have led us, the residents, to this impasse with 7 Rockdale councillors failing to attend and vote on crucial lazy asset sales that will pay for the pool and failing to vote on accepting the tenders for the construction of the pool.
I’m sure there were some locals in the crowd who might be wondering why I was there? It’s a local council issue and I’m the Greens candidate for a state seat, there are no Greens councillors on Rockdale currently so what’s in it for me?
Quite simply, I live around the corner from that pool and my wife and I we lucky enough to buy in the area looking forwards to taking our son Owen down there for swimming lessons (back before he was a glimmer in my wife’s eye). My wife Stephanie is an excellent swimmer and used to teach swimming – we actually were married on Wattamolla beach and took some of our wedding photos in the lagoon there, a place she grew up swimming, so swimming is a bit of a big deal for us.
This morning’s rally wasn’t the place for grandstanding on state policy issues, it was about local government and those in council representing us their constituents and in that discussion I am simply a concerned resident, doing what I can to support those fighting in council on our behalf.
However if I wanted to make it political and look to the Green’s position on this pool it’s a fairly simple case to make:
Energy and Water Sustainability
Transforming Bexley pool into the proposed Rockdale Aquatic centre will result in a lower carbon footprint for the council. Pools use inordinate amounts of electricity variously heating and cooling and cleaning and filtering their water and the new facility was designed with a goal for lower ongoing electricity costs, using less energy and also using water more responsibly. The old pool was leaking somewhere in the range of 20,000L per season, a massive loss to be addressed. As we look to an Australian future where increasingly Solar power is winning the war on fossil fuels, we have to be mindful of our water use as the next most crucial precious resource.
As a small business owner of many years, I also strongly advocate for the aquatic centre as it was proposed, with all the facilities that a world class pool would and should have. At the front of my mind, as a new parent, the creche, kids pools and the gym all make using the proposed pool far more attractive than the old facility and that leads to it’s financial sustainability. If we simply patch and repair the old pool it will continue to be a financial leak in the council’s budget for years to come. As the mayor rightly points out, even a conservative business case for the new pool shows it should run close to even if not a small profit. That sort of sustainable development is crucial for local councils as we see so many of them running into the red.
That leads to the point on egalitarianism and moral responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves. Rockdale is a bayside council and as such, I believe it is crucial that local government continues to provide an affordable, safe place for the children of our area to learn to swim, to compete in school carnivals, to stay fit and healthy. If we leave these facilities exclusively in the hands of private enterprise chasing the dollar, the cost will of course be higher. Not all parts of Rockdale are the lovely mansions down by the beach. We have a great gulf between our richest and poorest in our community and as heatwaves continue to shatter records, surely we want all Rockdale families to have the chance to take their kids to the local pool to cool off? Not everyone can afford the electricity bills that accompany continuous air conditioning use!
A healthy Rockdale, that encourages swimming, cycling, walking through our wetlands, playing sports on our ovals and fields, puts less of a strain on Medicare and in turn St George Hospital. Our local hospital desperately needs an upgrade to stay current and support our growing population as Kogarah and Hurstville councils continue to over develop the area with highrise dwellings. The cost of obesity on our economy and our healthcare system is significant and every local who has access to affordable healthy activities like swimming makes that less of a burden on the state.
Lastly, the Greens are founded on the principle that we are all equal. There is no back room or caucus directing our members or representatives on how to vote. Our MP’s vote to best represent those who put them there, their local constituents. I think Rockdale would like to see the absent councillors step up and do their jobs to represent their community, whether that be to debate against the pool or for it, but at the very least to do the job they were elected and have a responsibility to carry out, to partake in our democratic process at council meetings, or if that is too onerous a burden, resign.
*Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Greens NSW