POLL: Yeppoon Lagoon makes for splashing case study

Lagoon pools

Howard Salkow

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Port Douglas’ chances of following other shires and developing a lagoon swimming pool near the beach are all but dead and buried.

And Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr did not pull any punches when he said: “It would not be financially sustainable for this shire to have a free lagoon.”

He added: “Unless the state government allows councils to introduce a bed tax or something similar, we simply do not have the revenue ability for a lagoon.

“This council is currently looking at a free entry water splash park with a paid access safe water swimming area as part of this year’s operational plan.”

Other shires boast lagoon pools which have been extremely popular and Livingstone Shire Council’s Yeppoon Lagoon is the jewel in the crown of the Yeppoon foreshore precinct.

The Yeppoon Lagoon is one of several huge public swimming pools along the Queensland coast. These giant pools, such as those at Airlie Beach, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay, provide safe swimming. Safety is a necessity as the beaches north of Gladstone are prime territory for box jellyfish.

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Flirted and teased

In recent years, Port Douglas has ‘flirted’ and ‘teased’, but despite numerous iterations to proposed plans, nothing has ever reached fruition.

In September 2019, Newsport ‘confidently’ reported that Port Douglas is finally set to have a swimming lagoon with plans to develop the land around the Surf Life Saving Club.

“The lagoon will be Australia’s first chemical-free public swimming hole and be situated next to Four Mile Beach.

“The plan will require funding input from the state and federal governments and will include an upgrade to the Life Saving Club’s facilities.” Just another pipe dream.

Although we cannot compare ourselves to the Livingstone Shire Council – their population is 37,000 versus 12,000; and their operating budget is $135m versus $45m – the Yeppoon Lagoon makes for an interesting case study.

The lagoon opened in 2018 at a cost of $18 million, which was part of a $53 million precinct development. Funding was shared as follows: Council: $14 million; State Government: $29 million; Federal Government: $10 million.

The 2500 square-metre resort style lagoon pool is located right on the beach front and includes a shallow children’s play area, an informal lap swimming area and a swim-up infinity edge with stunning views over the Keppel Islands.

  
Motivation behind Yeppoon

Entry to the Lagoon is free and is patrolled Monday to Sunday including Public Holidays. It is located right in the heart of Yeppoon and just minutes from luxury beachfront accommodation, gourmet dining and a thriving retail precinct.

The motivation or genesis behind the lagoon can be traced back to the morning of 20 February 2015 when Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia crossed the Capricorn Coast at Shoalwater Bay (north northwest of Yeppoon). Marcia crossed the coast at category 5 intensity in a largely uninhabited area, although significant damage was recorded at Yeppoon and Rockhampton as the system weakened after making landfall.

This prompted Council to develop its Tropical Cyclone Marcia Economic Recovery Plan which was a pitch for funding partnership with the Commonwealth and State Governments under Category D Exceptional Circumstances natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement Funding (NDRRA). Council was successful in securing funding.

There was overwhelming support for what became known as the Yeppoon Foreshore and Town Centre Development. All three levels of Government contributed to the $53M development project.

Implementation was managed by Council’s Economic Development Team who provided regular updates to a Project Control Group and elected members. Multiple community consultation opportunities. Businesses in surrounding areas were also provided with monthly updates.

 
Jewel of the Capricorn Coast

Today, the Lagoon is the jewel of the Capricorn Coast. It encapsulates some of the unique attributes of the Capricorn Coast, including a swim-up infinity edge with stunning views over the Keppel Islands.

It is strategically designed to include both a shallow-depth children's play area as well as an informal lap swimming area, plus shaded areas in and around the lagoon. The two-storey pavilion is leased (The Rocks Café and Restaurant) who provide excellent options of food types to Lagoon users.

It has won multiple awards and on a localised level is very well patronised. The operating hours in summer are 6am - 9pm and swimmers/attendee numbers continue to grow. There are multiple social media platforms promoting Yeppoon Lagoon.

Maintenance and Operational costs for the Lagoon Precinct is approximately $2.3m per annum excluding Depreciation.

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