well-go-halves-in-10m-pool-costBy Gav Ross

The performance by young Tom Green in the title role of Wonthaggi’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the standout highlights of this stylish and energetic production. The show continues on this week  and next, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets at the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club. More inside.

PHILLIP Island residents could finally be doing laps in their own dedicated aquatic centre sooner than they think.

But there’s a catch – council wants the community to raise millions of dollars to help pay for it.

Cr Bradley Drew moved a surprise motion at last week’s council meeting which went against recommendations from council officers.

Whilst regarding plans for the upgrade of Wonthaggi’s pool as “imperative”, Cr Drew said the community had spoken after a recent survey found 73 per cent of residents supported two aquatic centres in Bass Coast.

“Yes, it will be challenging and difficult (but) I believe it’s a good calculated risk and we’ll work side-by-side with the community,” Cr Drew said.

Supporting his colleague, Cr Phil Wright said a pool for the island would be a strong investment which would keep ageing residents healthy and engaged and entice holiday home owners to visit more often.

“For the first time in 22 years, we are actually saying something,” Cr Wright said of the commitment outlined in Cr Drew’s motion.

“It’s a very good, positive statement.”

Cr Wright added that he hopes the decision will stop any Wonthaggi-versus-Phillip Island angst over which end of the shire deserves a new pool.

A new feasibility study has estimated the cost of building an aquatic centre in Cowes at $10.7 million.

And, according to the report being considered at last week’s meeting, the new pool is expected to average a net loss of close to $970,000 during its first five years of operation.

If a hydrotherapy pool was added to the mix, the loss is expected to be even greater.

Cr Clare Le Serve said it was good “to get the horse off the starting block”, but was concerned about the overall cost.

“Ten million (dollars) isn’t chicken feed,” she said.

“We’ve got to get that from somewhere.”

The final motion put forth by Cr Drew noted that funding for any pool – whether it be Wonthaggi or Phillip Island – is not even part of council’s current Strategic Resource Plan.

Cr Kimberley Brown wondered whether asking the community to raise 50 per cent (around $5 million) was raising the bar too high.

Cr Neil Rankine – the only councillor to vote against last week’s landmark motion – said the decision to move forward with two pools instead of one had “come out of the blue”.

Cr Drew vehemently disagreed.

“I think we’ve had a lot of time to think about it,” Cr Drew said, noting that just last September the council had agreed to look further into the financial viability of two pools.

A long wait for good news

Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund committee (PIACF) said last week’s decision was “terrific news” after the community group had been trying to obtain a commitment from the council, in one form or another, since 1992.

“While this doesn’t give us a pool now, it does allow the Fund the ability to work with council to agree on a location and develop a staged building approach by June, 2015,” secretary Peter McMahon said.

“While we were hoping for a better outcome, at least it has been recognised at last and we will ultimately get what was asked for a long time ago.

“Council’s commitment comes with several steps we will need to commit to, the first being agreeing to a location.”

The next will be to agree to the first stage of development.

“While the Phillip Island Aquatic Fund has developed several designs over its life span, we will now be working with council on a closer basis to bring about this stage.”

Regarding the future fundraising effort required, Mr McMahon said PIACF committee will advise the community further once a location to build the facility has been determined.

According to financials listed on PIACF’s website, the group raised around $250,000 from 2000 through to 2013.

After paying for its own feasibility studies and other committee activities, just $67,000 is left in the fund’s piggy bank.

How Phillip Island is expected to raise over $5 million for a new pool when it took 13 years to raise just a fraction of that amount is anyone’s guess.

Planning for a pool

COUNCILLOR Bradley Drew’s epic seven-part motion for Phillip Island’s future aquatic facility in a nutshell:

* Design and construction of the first stage to be considered as part of Bass Coast’s 2015/16 budget

* 50 per cent of the total cost of the project ($10.7 million) to be raised by the community

* Fundraising efforts must result in cash (in-kind assistance not accepted).

* Funding for both Wonthaggi and Phillip Island facilities to be considered during development of a long-term financial plan this coming financial year.

* Council’s current Strategic Resource Plan does not allow for the upgrade or construction of any pool in Bass Coast.