SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

IT’S a lot of money, $28.4 million. But it’s also a lot of building that the Bass Coast Shire Council is now ready to construct on the site of the former Cowes Cultural Centre in Thompson Avenue.

Was it the community’s first choice? Almost certainly not.

For many years, the Phillip Island community has been trying to get an aquatic centre on the Island, not only for local learn-to-swim, fitness and as an investment in the healthy lifestyles of local residents, but also to enhance the Island’s ability to provide more for visitors.

The place is an absolute goldmine as a tourism economy and jobs’ generator and thoroughly deserves and needs the necessary infrastructure to manage the demand and the responsibility of being Melbourne’s playground.

Hopefully the aquatic centre is next cab off the rank.

But the reality is that the new Cowes Community and Cultural Centre is a done deal, and as Cr Michael Whelan said at last week’s council meeting, it’s a development that should be celebrated.

And he’s right. There’ll be a new performing arts centre seating 250 people, ideal for Offshore Theatre, visiting shows and other events. There’s to be a big art gallery and sizeable museum and a ‘Great Hall’ that’ll be capable of accommodating 400 people.

The project will create 30 ongoing jobs and that’s the key to the success of this facility.

It’s absolutely vital that this building comes alive for the community, that it generates very high usage rates and that the benefits in terms of community engagement, satisfaction and overall benefit are measured and reported for proper accountability and review.

In the business case, the shire claims the investment of $28.4 million will generate $76.4 million in benefit, over what time period? Whatever the case, the council should produce regular, informative reports on the centre’s successes, and if necessary, its failures because we want to see this facility and the $28.4 million invested in it, most of it supplied by the ratepayers, work for us.

So, congratulations to the shire council for getting it over the line… now the work really begins.