Our View (8-5-2018): Make vaccine free

THE latest wave of bad news for Wateroo came crashing in on Friday morning, when a walkway collapsed into the sea.

It was not the first time the facility had broken but it was probably the worst look yet for the perpetually-troubled project.

Copper Coast Council staff and elected members will be angry this happened, because the entire structure was due for removal after the April school holidays.

Council has paid contractor Sea-Slip Marine Group about $1.6million for the project, including clean up of the jetty, design and parts, and has said it will pay the remaining costs and take ownership of the facility once completed. This means the repairs, redesigns and extra parts will continue to be at the expense of contractor Sea-Slip.

Some people are wondering whether Sea-Slip has taken the money and run, but that is not the case. General manager Lyn Brighton is not happy about the Wateroo saga and will continue working with engineering firm Meinhardt to create a pontoon swimming enclosure which can stand up to the conditions, although the patience and optimism of residents is understandably wearing thin. These constant issues plaguing Wateroo are not good for Sea-Slip, so it is in the company’s best interest to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

This has all been hugely frustrating and often embarrassing for council. All projects have complications but, on the whole, the current council has a solid track record when it comes to major works. From Splash Town, and the almost-finished Copper Coast Sport and Leisure Centre, to the Wallaroo foreshore and main street upgrades, the finished products have been well received. The CWMS installation and Port Hughes boat ramp upgrade spring to mind as projects of which people have been more critical. Yet the CWMS was finished well ahead of schedule, and during Easter a tremendous number of boats used the new ramp without major hassles. Compared with those developments, Wateroo has been a disaster.

What’s worse is numerous people pleaded passionately for council to rebuild the old swimming jetty instead of proceeding with the pontoons. Elected members opted for Wateroo, and at the time it made sense. It was reasonable for councillors to think the pontoons presented a quicker, cheaper solution which could be more of a tourist drawcard.

Rebuilding the jetty would not have been simple. Issues included:

  • The expected long build time meant there would be no swimming facility for that summer. Of course, Wateroo didn’t end up being ready for the summer school holidays either due to delays caused by weather and the delivery of certain parts.
  • A complicated construction. The new jetty would likely not have followed the same size and shape of that which came before, and would have presented its share of complications. However, it turns out a pontoon pool is about as difficult an engineering challenge as you could imagine. You might say a spacecraft, or the Sydney Harbour bridge, or Hoover Dam were more challenging. But those feats have been accomplished – the verdict is still out for Wateroo.
  • Safety. You can imagine what might have happened if someone dived off the new jetty and was badly hurt. Building standards are a lot stricter than they were when the original jetty was built. There have been reports of minor incidents at Wateroo but, in fairness, the potential danger pales in comparison.
  • The cost of a new jetty was a significant factor against a rebuild. As discussed, Wateroo’s ongoing repairs have not been at the expense of ratepayers, although to date the amount spent on Wateroo has not seemed like good value for money.

Not all of these issues have been the fault of Sea-Slip, its engineers, or council. The ropes holding the pontoons in place have been slashed twice, and investigations indicate this was almost certainly vandalism. The gates have also been kicked in. The last thing we need is for people to destroy parts of the structure as all involved work to get it right.

Wateroo will spend the winter away from the foreshore as work continues to create a working, permanent facility. After all that has happened so far we can only hope there is a solution because, despite everything, the potential is still there for this to be what council had originally hoped for.  Surely this summer is the last chance for Wateroo.

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