THE full amount funding isn’t in hand, no where near it, for the replacement cultural centre, estimated to cost in excess of $19 million.

There $2.5 million committed by the State Government during the week will barely pay the architect’s fees.

There are no approved plans nor has the new centre even been designed.

But down she comes!

The existing Cowes Cultural Centre is being torn down today by heavy machinery, all in the name, we are told, of avoiding the caretaker period ahead of the October 2020 election and so that any new council can’t turn around and say either (1.) we can’t afford to commit $19 million of ratepayers’ funds to one project, or (2.) that there are other priorities.

No, it’s coming down and it’s coming down today.

Local activist Maurice Schinkel is alarmed at the haste and “total lack of respect”.

“They’re crashing and bashing away without any attempt to salvage anything,” Mr Schinkel said today.

“There are plaques, doubtless unveiled by Ministers, and other things that could have been kept being piled on top of all the rubble.

“It shows a complete lack of respect and a wonton disregard for the community and the history of the place.”

Surely, the demolition of the Cowes Cultural Centre is not an essential service or essential requirement?

Is it right that it should be torn down in the middle of a pandemic, when the community is on Stage Three restrictions?

Shire’s response to demolition queries

We put some questions to the Bass Coast Shire Council

  • Do you have anything to say about the start of demolition works at the Cowes Cultural Centre?

Demolishing the facility early in the process enables Council to coordinate the removal and storage of all materials. It allows for the identification of any latent site issues in a more cost-effective manner, so it can be accommodated into the design and construction process and ensure that development can occur on schedule in early 2021 with minimal chance of unexpected delays. For example: if the soil is discovered to be contaminated during demolition, adjustments can be made during the design phase to ensure the proper precautions are undertaken.

  • Is there any information about the works that the community needs to be aware of?

The public can find out more information on the project via our website at www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/cowesccc

  • What is happening to the ‘Harmony Bells’?

The Harmony Bells along with the feature timber seating is currently outside of the demolition site. All significant plaques and memorabilia were removed prior to demolition starting.

  • Was it necessary to undertake the works during ‘Stage Three’ restrictions in the middle of a pandemic?

The project has been shown to generate 99 jobs and $51.8m economic benefit to the local economy over its lifetime. Investing in local infrastructure projects at this time is one key way that Council can help stimulate the local economy.

The response from the shire to the question of ‘why start the work during Stage Three restrictions’ doesn’t address the point.

Grant announcement

Bass Coast Shire Council has secured a $2.5 million grant through the State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund, for the redevelopment of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre.

Bass Coast Shire Mayor, Cr Brett Tessari said that this announcement was fantastic news for Bass Coast and the community.

“The Growing Suburbs Fund was expanded earlier this year, to include peri-urban councils. Bass Coast advocated to be included in the Fund to recognise that Bass Coast is a growing municipality which needs additional financial support to meet our communities’ expectations,” Cr Tessari said.

“We had several meetings with State Government Ministers and senior public servants to achieve this outcome.

“I would like to thank the State Government for including Bass Coast in this Fund and for providing $2.5 million towards this important community project. We look forward to additional funding for the Fund being made available in the upcoming State Budget.”

The $19 million redevelopment of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre involves replacing the existing Centre, to create a dynamic and interactive place that is a source of community pride. Concept Designs were well received during Community Stakeholder Engagement sessions held last week. Four sessions were held, with representatives from over 14 different groups in attendance. Council will continue to work with these groups through the schematic and detailed design phases of the project.

Demolition of the old site is underway, while construction of the new facility will start in early 2021 and is expected to take 12 to 14 months.

Cr Tessari said the delivery of this key Council and community project will help to support a much needed post COVID-19 economic recovery.

“Projects like this will help keep local jobs secure and create new and sustainable employment opportunities for the community,” Cr Tessari said.

“Once built, the Centre will bring together the cultural and social aspirations of the community and will draw in visitors to showcase the history and culture of the region.

“It will also provide an incredible facility for a huge range community activities and events,” Cr Tessari concluded.

For more information on the Cultural Centre project, contact Council on 1300 BCOAST (226 278) or (03) 5671 2211 or visit www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/cowesccc.