Hopes for an Aqua Park in Merimbula
The Merimbula Chamber of Commerce has been working with a company that are interested in setting up an Aqua Park in Merimbula. Chamber President Nigel Ayling visited the one located in Canberra in January with his family. “I spoke to the park operator Will Yeap, and said a similar park would be great in Merimbula. He said they were interested to explore the opportunity to open another park elsewhere and he would come and visit the area. He came down with his family in March this year and had a look around and we identified some possible sites.”
At this stage the preferred location is Top Lake Merimbula, near the existing Boat Hire and Kiosk. Discussions have already been had with the proprietors of that business and they are generally supportive of the concept. The water location is suitable because it has minimal tidal movement, is protected from winds, has the right water depth and does not interfere with other water activities or boating movements. Other benefits of this area are the easy access, existing parking, toilets and other facilities.
Will Yeap the proprietor of the Canberra Aqua Park said, “We don’t want to rush in and do this as we want to work with the local businesses and community and make sure it doesn’t impact on the environment. Any proposal will have to address any environmental issues and there is a protected seagrass nearby as well as oyster leases so we need to be careful not to disturb those. The park itself has a very light footprint as it does not use fuel, or emit noise and once it is setup, it requires only occasional use of a small electric pump.“
Chamber President Nigel Ayling said, “This would be a real asset to our area and would give families visiting the area another activity to participate in. The one in Canberra attracted over 16,000 people in just three months last year. If it did go ahead, it would only be up for a few month’s each year over summer and then would be packed away until the next season.”
At this stage the company is still scoping the area and has not submitted any applications. Initial talks with council suggest that the proposed use for an aqua park would be defined as a “Water Recreation Structure” under the BVLEP 2013. This is permissible within the W2 Zone but not the W1 Zone and whilst Top Lake is classified as W1 Zone, it could be considered as a temporary use under Clause 2.8 in accordance with the development standards listed for a period of 52 day.
The company has consulted the Bega Valley Shire Council, Crownlands (DPI&E), Fisheries (DPI&E) and the local business and tourism representatives. The next step would be to finalise the preferred location and apply for the Land Owner Consent, which will then allow them to submit a Development Application to the Council.
While the project will be mostly funded privately, the operator has also made an application for funding assistance from the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants to help with the high upfront cost and to keep the ticket prices affordable.
Mr Yeap said the Canberra Aqua Park took around 12 months to get approval for the development application, but hopes if they can submit an application soon and it was successful, they may be able to have it up and running for the 2021 summer holidays.