Sunday, August 8, 2010

Slide on in to Edmonton.

This morning I decided to catch up on the Sugarworld Water Park Feasability Study as I am a very interested observer and participant in the future of this facility for my region. The update was released last week and was sent to me at my request as I believed that the study was not being effectively carried out, resulting in a somewhat skewed vision for the entire park.

I had already spoken to Val Schier and Rob Pyne on the issue and visited frequently the section regarding the issue on Council's website. I had feedback from the budget meeting regarding my concerns but none of the answers I recieved there gave me much hope.

The Feasability Study is being carried out by an Adelaide company and is not at all effective in the way it has attempted to engage the community and gather important feedback. They have chosen to contact all members of the 'Save Sugarworld' Facebook Page and encourage them to complete an online survey regarding what the community would like on the current site. This attracted only one person's views. Yes, that's What this person has said is kind of irrelevant really, if they are the only respondant, how can any data be taken from that survey? The company responsible then go on to suggest that perhaps the singular response could indicate that public want for this facility to re-open is grossly inflated. Now that, is simply offensive.

They say that of the 13 plus thousand residents who became members of this social network page only 13 have contibuted comments to the page since the April decision was made to allocate funds toward the re-build. Apparently this is supposed to mean something important but I can't for the life of me figure out what?

Moving on to the survey they completed via phone of the 500 residents from all areas of Cairns and surrounds. This apparently gave them the opinion that most (although it's only marginal really) people would prefer the establishment of a large facility complete with cafe, restaurant, racing slides, toddler area, water features etc....somewhere close by at an Edmonton Leisure Centre and not on the same site at all. Nobody I spoke to wanted that. They claim that this data is sufficient to start a profile of what this area wants and this will shape the decisions made by council in regard to the issue.

I am flabbergasted. This is a very poor effort in marketing for the survey. An online social network has not been proven effective in any real survey structure that I am aware of. Most people joined this site to ensure it would remain a priority for the Council and have never visited it again (due to the fact that Council had decided to listen, or so they thought) so gaining responses from those people was never going to be a forgone conclusion. The phone poll incuded people living at the beaches who indicated they would prefer the site to be on their side of town which is a really bizarre idea considering they are about to get a huge facility nearby.

It is worth noting that the survey available through the Council website has not been collated yet, although I do not know how many people went through that avenue either (I did) so can't be sure that it will be any more relevant than the other data recieved.

Why on earth was this survey not advertised through local schools on their newsletters, day care centres and sporting clubs, anywhere that children, and consequently parents, are? This would have been a matter of a few simple phone calls and the job would have been done. No print media was used. No radio coverage. Only the online page. In this, the age of technology, it must be acknowledged that there is still a large percentage of the population who are computer illiterate, and choose to be. Or those who use computers sporadicaly or only at work. These people were at a distinct disadvantage during this study.

Personally, I would prefer a slide with an open top as my kids are petrified of the current, closed in ones. This was noted as a popular option in the small amount of data recieved which indicates that perhaps it should be thought about. However, besides the person who thinks the tiles in the food area need to go as they are too slippery (an excellent suggestion) and the need for a small toddler area for those who can't swim, what people really want is more of the same. They want to take their kids there for less than $10 per head. They want this park to be available to them by this wet season.

SGL (the research company) have done a very poor job of gathering any meaningful data, only 42% of those participating in the telephone survey had been to Sugarworld in the past 12 months. This indicates that they are not targeting the audience very well. It's frankly, hugely disappointing and needs to be addressed.

They should have just asked me, or Lisa Robbie, or Raj Patel, or Paul Drabble, because just between us we know more people than they have approached and already have their answers. It would have been much more useful than what they have done so far.

The response I recieved from Val was that she has questioned the study and has asked the company involved to explain themselves. Rob Pyne had previously tried (without success) to get the Council to bypass the study and take the slides straight to tender, allowing for a speedy re-build and a re-opening this year. At this rate, it will be at least late next year before this is finalised and anything is built.

I am desperately hoping that this process will be quick, that the company involved will be held accountable and that the entire process will not be further delayed by this debacle.

The kids just want to have some fun, in a beautiful environment, at a facility that their parents can reasonably afford. Surely that is not too much to ask?

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