TweedShire Council plans to lease the operation of the Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre (TRAC) to a private operator from 1 July 2010 in order to minimise costs to ratepayers while maintaining the high level of service and programs the facility currently provides.

The swimming centres at Tweed Heads South and Kingscliff will continue to be operated by Council staff for the next two years.

At that time Council will consider if a different business model is required at those pools.

Brisbane-based consultants Strategic Leisure Group recently prepared a report for Council which reviewed the business models for operation of Council’s aquatic facilities.

The objective of the report was to provide Council with a business strategy for its three aquatic facilities that would deliver a structured and integrated approach to managing the facilities and delivering aquatic services and programs.

The consultants examined a number of models which included council-staffed facilities, private contract and leasing arrangements.

The consultants conducted extensive consultation with existing Council pool staff, swimming clubs, learn-to-swim coaches, schools and other stakeholders.

Research included the operation of pools in south-east Queensland and the business models on which they were based.

The consultants recommended Council lease the operation of the TRAC facility to a private operator to be chosen through an open tender process, with council retaining responsibility for maintenance of the complex infrastructure such as pools, pumping machinery, air-conditioners etc.

Council’s Director Engineering and Operations Patrick Knight said this arrangement was a good outcome for the community as it protected the TRAC asset.

“We will be using private enterprise to obtain best value for dollar in the operation of the centre while ensuring that the pool will still be in good condition at the end of the lease,” Mr Knight said.

“The consultants determined that 32 out of 35 pools in the south-east Queensland area operate under a similar arrangement, as it is the most cost-effective model that delivers the best level of service to patrons. The councils which own these centres are also in the process of reviewing the business models for the remaining three facilities.”

Mr Knight stressed that the consultants found a very high level of satisfaction for the current pools and with Council’s pool staff and the proposed changes were in no way a reflection on the staff’s high level of performance.

“However, the report envisages there will be significant savings through the adoption of the private leasing arrangement and in the current tight financial climate, Council must seek savings wherever possible while ensuring that service levels are maintained and improved,” Mr Knight said.

“It is expected that the tenders will attract a number of highly experienced leisure centre operators who will be able to provide an even better service for the people of Murwillumbah and the Tweed.”

Through the lease arrangements, Council will retain control of the fees and charges associated with the facility and ensure that levels of service are maintained.

The existing seven Council staff will be redeployed to the Tweed Heads South and Kingscliff facilities.

Due to contract considerations, the final draft report Strategic Business Model Operation of Aquatic Facilities and Delivery of Aquatic Services will be made publicly available in accordance with Sections 11 and 12B of the Local Government Act 1993 after 2 August 2010.