Kempsey Shire pools to remain under local management

Renee and Mason Marchment with Heather Hudson
Renee and Mason Marchment with Heather Hudson

The Macleay's public swimming pools will remain in safe and familiar hands with Kempsey Shire Council reaching a compromise that delivers a positive outcome for the existing operators.

For the past four months a tender process has been underway to find one operator to take over management of all four of the shire's pools located at Crescent Head, Kempsey, Gladstone and South West Rocks.

Currently, three of the pools are under separate management and Gladstone is vacant.

The long-term operators at South West Rocks have decided to retire, so it looked to be a two-horse race between the teams from Kempsey's Hudo's Swim and Fitness, and Crescent Head Aquatic Centre.

Either way, a family entrenched within the community stood to lose its livelihood. Or both, if the unthinkable occurred and the bid of a bigger outside player proved more competitive.

However, troubled waters were avoided as councillors rallied behind the impassioned pleas of the Marchments and Hudsons to deliver a win-win.

The arrangement will see Kempsey Shire council general manager Craig Milburn negotiate the operation of the swimming pools with both parties.

Mr Milburn told the Argus the two parties would be entrusted to work it out between themselves with as minimal input from council as possible.

"The two parties are already starting to talk together,” Mr Milburn said.

“They obviously know each other and get on really well, and I'm really confident we'll come up with a very good outcome.

"I've just said ‘you guys know the industry better, you work it out and come back’.”

Mr Milburn said witnessing Heather Hudson and Renee Marchment embrace following the vote was the type of thing that keeps him in local government.

"That's what local government is about. The council has clearly worked through the legal process it has to, and has listened to the community, and has come up with a really good outcome,” he said.

An elated Heather Hudson couldn't hide her relief.

"I've had a sleepless 16 weeks," she said.

"That is actually what it's been like – we haven't slept for 16 weeks.

"It's a very big weight lifted and the outcome is we're all still here in the valley, and it hasn't gone to one of those bigger companies that come in and don't think about the people. They think about the money and that's it."

Mason Marchment echoed the thoughts of his counterpart.

"We were staring down the barrel of not being in the valley anymore and not having a pool to run but thanks to the generosity of the council and the Hudsons, we still have something to run and we still get to be a big part of our community, which is everything to us and it’s everything to them as well."