IT CAN’T be done, said Cr Les Larke. The Bass Coast Shire Council cannot afford a two-aquatics centre strategy at what Cr Larke estimated at between $90m and $100m.
In fact the release of the Bass Coast Aquatic Leisure Centre Feasibility Study (Final Draft Report) and the Phillip Island Aquatic Leisure Centre Feasibility Study (Final Draft Report for community consultation) at Wednesday’s council meeting (May 19) prompted more questions than it answered.
* Should we try to build two aquatic centres at once, one at Phillip Island and one at Wonthaggi?
* Can we actually afford to build two indoor heated pool facilities?
* If we do opt for a one regional aquatic centre strategy, where would the aquatic centre be built?
* If you continue to go after two aquatic centres, should they be built at the same time, but if not, which one should be built first.
* There’s also the issue of a 50 metre Olympic-size pool as opposed to 2 x 25metre (8 lane) pools. Cr Leticia Laing told council that she didn’t believe the number of people likely to use either facility would not warrant the development of a 50-metre pool at this stage.
The feasibility studies have been prepared in order to guide the future design and ongoing operations of the aquatic and leisure centres proposed to be constructed in Wonthaggi and Cowes. They will also form the central part of the aquatic centres’ public consultation process. The consultation period will allow the public and relevant stakeholders to provide feedback on the feasibility studies and help shape the future design and operations of both facilities.
Secretary of the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund Inc, Peter McMahon said he had a couple issues with the way council had presented its report.
“One of my main concerns is the proposed location of the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre,” Mr McMahon said.
“They’ve just spent $2.6 million on an additional 40 acres of space but they’ve chosen to jam the pool right up in one small corner of the site. What are they going to do with the rest of the land?
“We put out an aspirational plan for the community use of the whole site. For example we believe you can fit in two full-sized ovals, and all the other sporting facilities together with a massive carpark to help reduce the movement of cars into the town centre while encouraging the use of bikes, walking and mini-buses to get around.
“We want to see walking tracks, and bike tracks around the reserve. There’s no need to be squashing the aquatic centre up into one small part of the site.”
Mr McMahon said the shire would be making a mistake if it tried to combine the learn to swim pool with the hydrotherapy pool as these two facilities were likely to be the main generators of income.
“It would be ludicrous to put these two functions together.”
Mr McMahon also rejected any effort to drive a wedge between what Wonthaggi and Phillip Island needed.
“We’re not going to play that game. The need for an aquatic centre has been established on Phillip Island since there used to be a council on Phillip Island.”
He said his group would continue to be active in advocating and promoting the development of an aquatics centre on Phillip Island but he said he would like to see an overall development plan for the Phillip Island “carnival site” as soon as possible.
According to the shire’s report:
“Aquatic and leisure facilities play an important role in contributing to the health and wellbeing of our communities. They provide opportunities to engage in a physically active lifestyle and contribute to positive mental and social health outcomes. They are essential to the social fabric of communities, particularly in growth and regional areas such as Bass Coast, and this is evidenced by the strong community interest in aquatic facilities.
“The purpose of the feasibility studies is to guide future decision-making relating to a redeveloped Bass Coast Aquatic and Leisure Centre in Wonthaggi and a new aquatic and leisure centre in Cowes, Phillip Island. Each feasibility study recommends leisure and aquatic components that are based on population data, growth modelling and best-practice industry trends.
Wonthaggi aquatic centre
The proposed redevelopment of the Bass Coast Aquatic and Leisure Centre at Wonthaggi will be the regional centre for the shire. The proposed location remains within the Wonthaggi Sports Precinct, but has been relocated to the more prominent location of the corner of Korumburra Road and Wentworth Road. This proposed location will involve the relocation of the existing skate park and croquet club to another area within the sports precinct.
Phillip Island aquatic centre
The Phillip Island Aquatic and Leisure Centre is proposed to be a district-level facility to be located on the corner of Phillip Island Road and Ventnor Road, Cowes. Council owns both this land parcel and the adjoining parcel known as Hilton Chadwick Reserve. These contiguous land parcels are intended to be developed into a dedicated recreational reserve which will host the formal and informal recreation facilities for the Phillip Island catchment. The master plan of the proposed Phillip Island Recreational Reserve is a separate piece of work scheduled for future years.
What the councillors had to say
Cr Michael Whelan: It’s important to note that this is about engaging in community consultation on the plan that was circulated last Friday. I think that that is a milestone, it doesn’t get us anywhere other than at that point but the last councils set its target of having two shovel-ready projects to be able to then use in our advocacy towards having two aquatic centre facilities in Bass Coast and we we’ve achieved that so congratulations to the officers and our consultants that have done that work. The facility in Wonthaggi is getting towards end of life, it needed replacement and of course we bought the Carnival site in Cowes to facilitate an aquatic facility there. It’s important the community gets on board with this strategy because with a divided community, as we’ve seen in the past, it will go nowhere. So, it’s important for the community have a good look at this taking account of its recommendations, but at the end of the day, we need to get together and really show a united face to government at both levels. We’ve got the opportunity in the next two years with two elections to take this to the political people and hope that those funds will be forthcoming.
Cr Clare Le Serve: We’ve made promises and commitments to have the aquatic centres studies done. The report says that in 2015 we started this strategy but there was a lot of work done prior to that time. And it goes back to Phillip Island always wanting it and anybody that ever stood for council would have had an aquatic centre on their agenda. So, I’m really pleased that we’ve got to this point. I do know that, for the community, that it’s a final draft report for community consultation, so I really ask people Bass Coast Shire wide to have input into that. We’ve done our bit. It’s taken a long time, I must admit, and there’s people who’ve probably lost patience with us over it but I think we’ve really got a good product here, and something that we’ll all be proud of. So, I’m really imploring people to get involved and have a look at it.
Cr Leticia Laing: I’d like to support this motion because this is a very, very sorely needed facility, both in Wonthaggi and also in Phillip Island. It’s great to see that the project will include disabled access either through ramp and hoists, and technology so that people with a disability and mobility impairments can actually still access and enjoy these pools. Fifty metre pools, I’d like to mention, are not recommended due to the smaller than required catchment to support the operational costs. So it would be great to have a 50 metre pool but it’s the cost of it isn’t really justified given all of the work and research that’s gone into who would actually use it. It’s also great to see that there’s a commitment to reducing environmental impacts including emissions reductions and the avoidance of gas, and a focus on electric to power the facilities. So it would be great if the community gave us more feedback on it. The Wonthaggi pool, or the Bass Coast Aquatic Leisure Centre, will be catering for a catchment of about 31,000 people and I’d also like to add that hopefully it happens pretty soon because Wonthaggi Pool is leaking its guts out, so it would be good to get a replacement.
Cr Bruce Kent: I’ll be supporting this motion, but I would strongly like the community to make comments that this is an engagement. And we’re putting forward, as one councillor said, a good product. Yes, both pools are a fantastic product, but they also have to be paid for, multi millions of dollars, and we’re looking for support from our state and federal leaders and hopefully that will be forthcoming. But I asked the community to look at the costing, think in their own minds how long it would take for the Council, on its own, to produce this product, and should there be some sort of decision making by the community be involved in regard to which pool we look at first, or do we consider doing both pools at the same time, knowing the cost factor, what it might involve and that length that it might involve to take.
Cr Les Larke: Realistically, we cannot afford a two-pool strategy, requiring 90 to $100 million in funding, regardless of council’s potential advocacy in this space. My view is that one regional pool is a realistic objective. We need to rethink the strategy accordingly.
Cr Ron Bauer: As my colleagues know I originally was going to move for a deferment of this, but I’ve changed my mind there, insofar as I think it has to go out to the community and it’s very important for about the island community and the rest of Bass Coast Shire to look at this proposal and get the feedback. I’m sad about the fact that not either pool is a 50 metre pool, and without that we can’t hold district championships through to competition championships, which really is important for any swimming hub. Phillip Island’s centre a hydro pool and learn-to swim in the same pool and we know that there’s an announcement coming from Bendigo Bank as far as having a dedicated hydro pool is concerned. True their donation would be the equivalent of a drop in the ocean but I think that the concept of having separate pools will be good. But again, I agree Cr Kent, about community consultation and Cr Whelan said the same. We must see what they say after they look at these plans, and the more consultation and the more input we get, the better. So, I will be voting for this recommendation.
The vote was put with only Cr Larke against putting the two-pool policy out for consultation.