THE people in charge of the Cowes Primary School have put the acid right on the Bass Coast Shire Council.
And their claims struck at the heart of the eternal dilemma for the council.
They told councillors, at a Community Connection Session in Cowes last Wednesday, that the shire had set a precedent when they stumped up $1.5 million for the Wonthaggi Secondary College’s three-court sports stadium in December 2017 and should do the same for Cowes Primary.
They’ve got a very good argument.
“According to the 2016 Census, Phillip Island has 35 per cent of the shire’s kids between the ages of 0 and 12 as opposed to 24 per cent in Wonthaggi and there’s virtually nothing here for them,” said President of the Cowes Primary School Council Brendan Cashman.
“We also have 35 per cent of the people over 60 in the shire.”
The school is offering to double the size of the new stadium promised by the State Government.
Principal Rod McKenzie reckons it’s a no brainer.
“All the design work, approvals, project management and all the rest will be done for you,” he told the shire, noting that the Victorian School Building Authority had been tasked to do the work.
They backed the council into a corner.
“We’re here to talk about our gym which is going to be built and we’re asking what help the Bass Coast Council might be able to provide,” Mr Cashman said.
“In September 2018 we were delighted when the State Government pledged to build a new junior secondary college in the area, and we got a new sports stadium in the process.
“Now we’ve moved to the planning stage and our funding will get approved in the next state budget.
“We’ve completed the project management plan and the location has been confirmed and we’re now in the design phase, which is great. We’ve actually done a lot in a short amount of time.
“We’ve got funding for a single court stadium, but a single court is not enough for this community.
“We have 1647 participants on Phillip Island who all have a need, trying to use the one YMCA court.”
Mr Cashman went on to say that kids on the island were having to give sport away because they simply couldn’t get on the court.
Others, said Mr McKenzie, were having to travel as far as Cranbourne to play netball.
He said the Phillip Island Football Netball Club, the largest participation club in the region, often couldn’t get on to the oval to train because the ground simply got too much use, and the idea they might use the stadium there was simply out of the question most of the time.
“It happens every year and it’s happening more and more.
“The Island is bursting at the seams and we have an opportunity to do something about that now, not in 10 to 15 years when your own stadium plans are funded.”
Several councillors asked questions.
“What’s the gap,” asked Cr Claire Le Serve.
“It’s about $2.6 million,” Mr McKenzie said.
The total cost of the dual-court stadium project could be as much as $6.2 million, so even that amount from the shire might not be enough.
Clearly though, the Bass Coast Shire Council is looking to borrow $15 million for its cultural centre project so a change of priorities could see the Cowes PS stadium jump the queue.
There’s also the prospect of getting access to the new $100 million Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme from the State Government at a maximum interest rate of 1.5 per cent.
While visiting Wonthaggi last Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews encouraged the school and the shire to cooperate for a better outcome for the community.