Rock pools become most pressing issue

The people of Wollongong have spoken, and their message to their council is clear: don’t close our beloved rock pools.

By far the largest number of submissions to Wollongong City Council’s financial sustainability review concerned rock pools, and the council  acknowledged the strength of community support for what some believe is our area’s best asset.

Stopping maintenance on some pools and allowing the ocean to reclaim them was one option recommended by the council’s citizens panel, which tried to find ways to save money while minimising rate rises.

But with the initial consultation period now finished, rock pools drew 360 responses – almost double the second-placed issue.

The recommendation to reduce beach patrol times at Coalcliff/Scarborough was second with 185 submissions, followed by the recommendation to demolish the Coalcliff hall (51) and close Unanderra library (49).

The figures show the success of the campaign from one of Wollongong’s smallest suburbs – Coalcliff – to make sure their rock pool was not abandoned.

Coalcliff Community Association president Pat Goodchild said he was pleased at the reaction to the campaign he and his neighbours led. But he was concerned for suburbs without a strong, organised voice.

‘‘I’m pleased in the sense that common sense has prevailed, but if we hadn’t have jumped up and down, it probably wouldn’t,’’ he said.

‘‘If other areas aren’t as organised as Coalcliff... they will lose some of their assets. Not because they deserve to lose them, but because they don’t have a strong enough voice. All of the rock pools are iconic, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.’’

The council has yet to decide how it will combine feedback with the panel’s recommendations. Next Monday’s meeting will select options to be put to further consultation, but the ‘‘moderate’’ scenario published does not involve the closure of rock pools.

Across the local government area, residents may need to put their money where their mouths are – the report to councillors on Monday says there may be cause to pay more to support services, either through increased rates or fees. The report says a ‘‘small number of submissions’’ said people would rather pay higher rates or fees to maintain service levels – in particular rock pools.

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