THERE is "enthusiastic support and optimism" over a plan to build an ocean pool at Ballina's Shelly Beach, university researchers have found.
Southern Cross University's School of Business and Tourism conducted surveys on the proposed project, and found almost 90 per cent of Ballina residents surveyed were in favour of the proposed Ballina ocean pool.
"Our surveys found ... residents were genuinely excited about the prospect of an ocean pool for Ballina and for this coastline," Professor Betty Weiler said.
"This would be the first ocean pool built in Australia in 50 years, and the survey shows that most respondents would use the ocean pool and it would make them visit Shelly Beach more often."
The university's Marine Ecology Research Centre has also provided advice to the project, mapping out the proposed site using drone technology.
The centre will also submit the draft environmental impact report.
Armed with this information, Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson revealed the ocean pool plans could be submitted to the council by February next year.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," he said.
"Doing the street stalls really showed the community wants this - it's really encouraging to see.
"It's been great to work with Professor Weiler and her team. The process has been really thorough.
"This has all been done by a community committee and we've been working on it for three years. We are really pleased to see it all coming together and now we're reaping the rewards."
Two separate surveys - one soliciting the opinions of Ballina residents and the other aimed at local business operators - revealed widespread support for the development of an ocean pool at Shelly Beach.
The community survey found 87 per cent of residents were in favour of the project, with 86 per cent believing that there would be strong positive impacts.
Most of those surveyed reported residing in or within a few kilometres of the proposed site.
Other findings included:
- 75 per cent of people surveyed said the ocean pool would encourage the community to swim and would bring more people to Lighthouse and Shelly beaches
- 60 per cent agreed it would have a positive impact on local businesses
- Most people said they would use the pool in the early morning or the afternoon
- More than 50 per cent said they would use the pool either weekly or daily
- 10 per cent said they would never use the pool.
Prof Weiler said some concerns were expressed about the location, the visual impact compromising the currently uninterrupted ocean views, possible environmental and maintenance issues and the cost to ratepayers.
Southern Cross University also conducted a separate interview-based study to obtain the views of the business community, which was recently presented to the Ballina Chamber of Commerce.
The study found business operators were generally favourable about the project, with few expressions of negative impacts, although they had modest expectations about the pool benefiting Ballina or their own business.
The community surveys were conducted under the supervision of Dr Kay Dimmock and Professor Weiler, with more than 300 residents taking part via two pop-up booths on River St as well as online.
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