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"We won't be bullied" on Aquatic Centre revamp: Hyde

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The Adelaide City Council will take a hard-edged approach to any negotiations over a $65 million club and community facility to replace the Adelaide Aquatic Centre, Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde promised today.

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Addressing a community meeting on the Aquatic Centre lawns this morning, Hyde assured about 60 gathered patrons that the council has the clout to negotiate effectively with the Crows, if the club’s unsolicited bid to build a new facility reaches that stage.

And if we don’t think what they’re delivering for the community is good enough, we’ll tell them to piss off.

A questioner from the crowd said he was concerned the Adelaide Crows’ political and financial heft would place the council in a position of being bullied into accepting a proposal for the site that would not be acceptable to the community.

“There will be a force majeure, in which constantly the Adelaide Football Club will serve its interests because it’s a commercial enterprise, and the Adelaide City Council doesn’t have the means in order to restrict or to deal with issues,” said the man, to applause.

“That’s absolutely a fair observation to make, but what I would say is that the council in more recent years has got a lot more savvy when it comes to dealing with the private sector,” Hyde responded.

Today’s community gathering at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“We can see that in how the Central Market Arcade (redevelopment) is unfolding … the council is extracting a huge amount of benefit from that when we’re putting in very little, relative to what we’re getting.

“We’re very savvy with governance. We’re very savvy dealing with the private sector. We’re not going to allow ourselves to be bullied.

“And if we don’t think what they’re delivering for the community is good enough, we’ll tell them to piss off.”

During an interview with InDaily afterwards, Hyde clarified that he did not feel the club was bullying the council in any way, but rather he wanted to emphasise that it was not a “pushover” and that it would “play hardball” in any future negotiations over the Aquatic Centre site.

I’m not suggesting they would try to bully us

“I want to put to bed any concern that we’re just a bunch of bureaucrats (that the club can) run roughshod over,” he said.

“I’m not suggesting that they would try to bully us – they have been respectful, to date.

“(But) people in the community are concerned about whether the council is strong enough to go in to bat for them.”

The council is currently out for consultation on the Adelaide Football Club’s draft proposal for a $6 million an administration and training base in Denise Norton Park (Pardipardinyilla), which would also feature community swimming, recreation, health and wellbeing facilities.

This morning’s community meeting was organised by Labor MLC Tung Ngo, who translated Hyde’s responses for Vietnamese speakers in the crowd.

Members of the audience expressed concern the council’s consultation website was not accessible enough for people who do not speak English or for whom English is a second language.

Several speakers urged Hyde and North Adelaide councillor Mary Couros, who joined him and Ngo at the front of the gathering, to lobby the state and federal governments for funding for any future centre.

Hyde told the crowd that the council was losing $800,000 a year by operating the ageing aquatic centre, which would need $14 million to maintain its current standard over the next decade.

He said the Crows’ proposal offered an opportunity to build a better aquatic centre and that the council would use a Community Land Management Plan to regulate any potential future Crows facility on the site.

He added that there was clear support for an extended consultation period and more accessible council information about the proposal.

The football club has said its proposal will boost the local economy by “hundreds of millions of dollars” and return over 6000-square metres to the park lands and would include about 5000-square metres of publicly-accessible swimming facilities, which the club would only use “on an occasional hire basis”.

Under the club’s plan, existing ovals on Barton Terrace West would also be upgraded to a new “high-quality, AFL-standard” facility, while the ovals on Park 2 would remain untouched and unfenced.

The proposal has drawn staunch opposition from park lands preservation advocates.

They include former Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith, Adelaide Parklands Preservation Association president Shane Sody and Ingrid Wangel (who is representing former Olympian Denise Norton, after whom Park 2 is named) who will each appear at a “debate” over the Crows’ plans next Wednesday night.

Norton, 86, has said she will stand in front of bulldozers to halt the Crows building on the site.

Former Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood will moderate the debate.

But the Crows have declined to have its representatives at the event, branding it as a “headline-grabbing and point-scoring exercise” by park lands advocates.

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