By Michael Giles

I’M A fairly keen swimmer. Not fast but I like to go in the Cape Aquathon, Channel Challenge and the Phillip Island swim-run events if I can over the summer.
So I need to do a bit of training in the offseason, jogging each Saturday morning in the Inverloch parkrun over 5km and some swimming in the pool before the ocean warms up a bit.
I’m a resident of Bass Coast but I prefer to swim in the excellent Splash Centre swimming pool at Leongatha.
The lanes are easily wide enough for the odd occasion when more than one person wants to use the same lane and there’s plenty of depth to tumble turn at either end.
The temperature is ideal for swim training and overall, it’s an absolute joy for the community of Leongatha and district, and a credit to the community and local shire who backed its development.
But, oh dear, not so the Wonthaggi Swimming Pool where I occasionally have a swim.
Here’s a facility that would have been barely adequate in the 1950s, much less cater to the burgeoning population of Wonthaggi and district – most of the Bass Coast Shire in fact.
The lanes in the pool are too narrow and you have to do a side flip as you turn at the changerooms’ end of the pool or else you’d hit your head on the bottom it’s so shallow. The pool is too hot for swim training which is not the fault of pool management because it also caters to water aerobics and other exercise favoured by regular users.
For a big, growing community that is going to get rapidly bigger in the next few years, it’s an absolute disgrace and both the state government and local shire, the Bass Coast Shire Council, should be ashamed of their efforts in this regard.
The Bass Coast Shire Council has a project on its books and they say they are seeking funding but so far without luck, even in the volatile political climate in the State seat of Bass, viewed as one of the ‘Battleground Electorates’ in the November 24 election.
If we can’t get funding for this much-needed project now; then when?
There has not been the sort of campaign to get funding for this vital facility that we saw with the Wonthaggi Secondary College senior campus project.
I mean, who even knows the shire is going out for funding for the Bass Coast Aquatic Centre? Are they?
When asked for a progress report last week, the shire issued the following one-liner: “There is currently no funding to progress the planning for the Bass Coast Aquatics and Leisure Centre. Council officers will investigate the costs associated with designs for aquatics in the Shire this year.”
But there seems to be no sense of urgency about building a facility that will save lives.
The Bass Coast Shire Council needs to spell out how much the project is expected to cost, how much it will be able to contribute by cash and loan funds and what it expects to get from the government; state and federal, if possible, to make it happen.
We then need to go to Brian Paynter (Lib) and Jordan Crugnale (ALP); the two apparent front-runners in the upcoming election and ask them to get a commitment to the funding.
And the shire should be seeking to activate the community.
If not now, then when?
A decent swimming pool is an absolutely vital community facility, not only because providing access to swimming lessons and training for kids and other residents will stop them from drowning but also because it provides a centre of sporting activity and fitness that can lead to other benefits.
Bass Coast Shire Council has probably been flying under the radar with all of the bad behaviour focus on its neighbour, the South Gippsland Shire Council, but it doesn’t mean there’s any less pressure to get the job done.
The complete redevelopment of the aquatic centre at Wonthaggi is an absolute must and with an election looming, it should be considered an abject failure if the candidates for both major parties aren’t able to come up with the necessary funding as the battle for Bass heats up with little more than a month to go before the election.