Our Response to Randwick City Council's FAQ's

3 April 2021

Randwick City Council (Council) has released a summary of questions and answers in relation to the new gymnastics centre proposed as part of the Heffron Centre development.

 

Bunnerong Gymnastics is supportive of the new facility and the upgrades across Heffron Park to date. We are however concerned Council have significantly deviated from the original plans for gymnastics and are now proceeding with a gymnastics facility that does not meet the community’s requirements.

 

Our proposal is for the funds raised by the Gymnastics Community, for this very facility, to be used to ensure it is large enough by extending the building to the 2,300m2 size as originally proposed in the 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management. The proposal does not intend to compromise the other Heffron Centre users.

Whilst we appreciate the recent attention Randwick Council is providing to the gymnastics community, we do want to set the record straight on some of the claims in their release dated 30 March 2021 titled “Gymnastics and multi-purpose sports at the new Heffron Centre – Your questions answered”

In particular to a key statement by Council:

“The size proposed for the new facility is appropriate to service existing members and to grow participation into the future.”

Fact: The gymnastics facility is 45% smaller than originally scoped as per Council's November 2007 meeting (Item 50/2007 - page 297) which identified a standalone gymnastics facility up to 2,300m2. This motion was carried (refer page 93).

Fact: Bunnerong Gymnastics, as the current operator at Heffron Park for 33 years has advised Randwick City Council the proposed gymnastics area will not meet current or future gymnastics requirements, based on the current gymnastics programs that are provided to the community.

Fact: Feedback from Gymnastics NSW” has largely been disregarded. A letter from Gymnastics NSW dated 30 October 2020 states “the design on public exhibition… does not align with the advice provided to Council regarding facility size to meet the requirements of participation current and future nor would the size enable it to be a facility of regional significance.”

Fact: The facility as proposed will not be able to hold the same amount of equipment. The gymnastics equipment needs to be set out to modern standards, so less equipment will fit into the proposed gymnastics area.

Fact: Bunnerong Gymnastics and Gymnastics NSW have advised the facility will not meet current let alone future demand. GNSW letter dated 8 April 2016 has projected there will need to be another 1,000 places for gymnastics by 2036.

Fact: Gymnastics NSW advice to Council on 7 October 2020 states "The facility specifications, released during the EOI process, do not meet the specifications required for a district-level gymnastics facility and fail to meet the demand of the local area, and the operational requirements for a future operator".

Fact: The expression of interest document released by Council does not require the operators to provide the same level of gymnastics programs/services to the community. This effectively allows the operators rather than the community to decide which services/programs are provided in the new facility. (Council EOI document page 6)

Fact: Documents have been obtained showing Council was proceeding with the smaller gymnastics footprint from 2017, but did not advise the community until mid 2020. (Council's Capital Expenditure Review for the Heffron Centre includes an appendix from Otium Sport and Leisure dated 14 August 2017 showing the gymnastics facility being 1,307m2).

Fact: Gymnastics is the 4th most played sport within NSW, and the 3rd most participated in Australia (for both boys and girls). (2019 AusPlay Survey)

What can you do?

We need our membership base to make it clear to Council that there is a way to achieve a new, purpose-built facility that meets the current and future requirements of our sport.

  1. Comment on Council's Facebook Post regarding their Questions and Answers on the Gymnastics Facility

  2. Please sign and share our petition to Randwick City Council,

  3. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and share our posts about this issue.

  4. You may also like to email Council asking councillors to amend the proposal council@randwick.nsw.gov.au

  5. Check out our main Building Update Page

If you have further queries please do not hesitate to email newgym@bunneronggym.com.au

 

Key Questions from Council’s Release are below with Bunnerong Responses

“The planned gymnastics centre will be approximately 1,300m2 or 33 per cent larger”

  • Whilst this statement is correct, the original plans for the gymnastics facility, as per Council's November 2007 resolution (Item 50/2007 - page 297)  was for a facility up to 2,300m2. Therefore the gymnastics facility is 45% smaller than originally scoped.

  • Whilst the area for gymnastics will increase compared to the existing facility, this increased space is also used for bathrooms, change rooms, storage and administration space.

  • The usable training and competition area will be effectively increasing by only 19%

  • For context, the space for bathrooms, change rooms, storage and administration space has increased by 100% (doubled) to make them meet best practice requirements.

  • The gymnastics equipment also has to be set out to modern standards, so less will equipment fit into the proposed training and competition area.  Bunnerong Gymnastics and Gymnastics NSW have both advised Randwick Council the proposed area will not meet current or future gymnastics requirements based on the current programs that are available to the community.

  • This means that there will be less equipment for gymnasts. Recreational participants will have less equipment to use and the current competitive programs will have to be cut or their outcomes compromised. This will result in fewer gymnasts having an opportunity to realise their dreams.

“Is the size of the new gymnastics facility appropriate?”

Council has advised “The size proposed for the new facility is appropriate to service existing members and to grow participation into the future.”

  • The gymnastics community has advised this is not the case:

    • Gymnastic NSW, the State Body for Gymnastics advised the proposed size will not service the existing members.

    • Bunnerong Gymnastics, who have provided gymnastics services to the community for over 40 years (33 at Heffron Park) have advised the size will not service existing members

    • Advice from an equipment supplier highlighted that the 1,000m2 allocated for equipment wasn’t large enough to house the existing equipment. Therefore, there will be a reduction in equipment in the new facility.

  • Gymnastics is the 4th most played sport within NSW, and the 3rd most participated in Australia (for both boys and girls). (2019 AusPlay Survey)

  • Participation trends provided by Gymnastics NSW to Council in 2016 highlight an additional 1,000+ spaces are required by to service the Randwick LGA.

  • Bunnerong Gymnastics currently turns away families due to space constraints associated with the facility. With less equipment this will mean even more families will miss out on one of the most popular sports in the country.

“Interest we have received from potential future operators has been strong indicating the size and quality of the new facility is appropriate.”

  • Gymnastics NSW advice to Council on 7 October 2020 states "The facility specifications, released during the EOI process, do not meet the specifications required for a district-level gymnastics facility and fail to meet the demand of the local area, and the operational requirements for a future operator".

  • A copy of Council’s EOI document is available here.

  • The document states:
    “With regard to the Gymnastics Centre, offer and provide programs appropriate to a facility of this size and nature, promoting junior participation, coaching, competitions, lessons, school programs and other community programs, etc.”

  • The EOI does not stipulate what types of programs are required to be provided – therefore in effect, a new operator could provide completely different programs from that currently provided to the community. It would be like having an AFL field and stating the new operator needs to provide ‘football’ (this could allow operators to provide AFL, or instead, NRL, Soccer, Rugby Union, etc). The community currently has access to Recreational and Competitive level Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics programs up to level 10 – these same services should be provided to the community.

  • Considering the current facility is being demolished, it is essential the same level of service is provided to the community. It is difficult to understand how the market testing via the EOI process ensures this is has been achieved.

“The new gymnastics centre is designed as a district level sporting facility for the surrounding community.”

  • This statement contradicts the advice in Council’s progress report to Councillors dated 28 July 2020:

    • “1.3.1. The Heffron Centre will feature a new indoor gymnastics facility that can accommodate artistic, rhythmic, aerobic and acrobatic gymnastics disciplines. Consideration will also be given to planning for a future trampoline area.

    • 1.3.2. The facility will be built to regional level standard, and will cater for all levels of participation, from grassroots to elite competition levels. The facility will be sized to cater for regional gymnastic events and spectator numbers.”

  • These requirements have not been included in the EOI document. We also note inconsistencies between 'district' and 'regional' references across Council documents.

“How long has Council been planning to upgrade the gymnastics and indoor sports centre?”

Council states it has “been planning an upgrade since 2004 as part of the development of a plan of management for Heffron Park.”

  • Bunnerong Gymnastics has been championing for upgrades to the Gymnastics Centre since 1997.

  • As part of Bunnerong Gymnastics' request in May 2004 (noted in Council's August 2004 Council Meeting - page 16) Bunnerong Gymnastics were advised a plan for the entire park would need to be completed first.

  • Bunnerong Gymnastics then worked with Council and other sporting groups on the now adopted 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management – this included a gymnastics facility up to 2,300m2 as per the November 2007 Meeting Agenda (page 297) and Minutes (page 93). A dedicated gymnastics facility of this size is shown on the Plan for the Park.

  • These ‘long term’ plans have now been disregarded and the new facility is 1,000m2 less than the plans developed over a decade ago even though the participation trends and the gymnastics experts have advised the facility will not meet current demand.

“Some have said that the rate increase was only supported by the community on the basis a State level gymnastics facility would be built, is this true?”

  • The gymnastics community was under the impression a new gymnastics facility would be built as per the 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management, which included a new purpose-built gymnastics facility up to 2,300m2. At no part of the public consultation for the rate increase did Council advise the new gymnastics facility would be significantly smaller than the Plan of Management.

  • The 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management Masterplan was based on the 2007 Landscape Plan that was approved by Council in November 2007. Council confirmed support of a new gymnastics facility of up to 2,300m2 in its own resolution (Item 50/2007 - page 297) regarding the Landscape Plan for Heffron Park as part of the November 2007 Council Meeting (page 93)

“Why aren’t you building a state level facility? Did Council ever promise to build something bigger?”

  • As outlined above, Council confirmed the above support of a new gymnastics’ facility of up to 2,300m2 as per their Landscape Plan resolution in November 2007.

  • Council’s General Manager wrote to Bunnerong Gymnastics on 3 November 2008 in relation to providing support for our request to extend the Bunnerong Gymnastics Building as per the approved Landscape Plan (which outlined up to 2,300m2). Council stated, “provided that the footprint of the extension is consistent with the Landscape Concept for the Park, and subject to relevant approvals, Council will support the upgrade and extension.”

“Who will run the new gymnastics centre?”

  • Council have stated “This decision has yet to be made. Local councils are required to go through a tender process when selecting an operator for public facilities.”

  • The Local Government Act 1993 Section 46A states:
    (3) A lease or licence for a term exceeding 5 years may be granted only by tender in accordance with Division 1 of Part 3, unless it is granted to a non-profit organisation.

  • Bunnerong Gymnastics, a non-profit organisation that has championed for the new gymnastics centre for decades and has been based on Heffron Park for 33 years, could have worked in partnership with Council just like the Rabbitohs.

“Was Bunnerong Gymnastics consulted?”

  • Bunnerong Gymnastics was involved in the Heffron Park Plan of Management and has had a strong working relationship with Council since we have been on the site since 1987. Consultation with Council ceased with Bunnerong Gymnastics in 2018. Council advised that a tender would be required for the facility and therefore would instead work with Gymnastics NSW as an independent to ensure the best outcome for the facility.

  • Council made it clear that the interests of gymnastics would be well represented by Gymnastics NSW. It was also implied the tender process would be based on the Plan of Management strategy which states "Council should strive to achieve equity of access, support for local associations and sporting groups, and provide for changing sport and recreation trends while providing a reasonable return that reflects accountability in the management of its recreational resources."

  • Since this time:

    • the advice from Gymnastics NSW has been largely disregarded,

    • the facility is 1,000m2 less than the adopted 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management,

    • several for-profit businesses have been shortlisted from the EOI by Council, and

    • As a requirement of the EOI, Council has not requested the same level of gymnastics services as are currently provided; and more importantly.

    • The community has not been advised by Council that the proposed gymnastics facility significantly deviates from the Plan of Management. Neither did Council advise the community that Bunnerong Gymnastics has offered each year to provide capital contributions to the project - up to $4M (the same amount as the Rabbitohs) to ensure the facility meets the community’s requirements as per the 2009 Heffron Park Plan of Management and the November 2007 Resolution for a gymnastics facility up to 2,300m2.