On Wednesday night, the council approved entering a lease with the Phillip Island Nature Parks to fund a renovation of part of the Civic Centre and house up to 30 staff in the heart of Cowes, subject to budget approval.
Hallelujah! After years of complaints that nothing is spent on Phillip Island, I expected celebration. But no – there have been editorials opposing investment that will support the renovation for Nature Parks, questions to council and attempts to delay the decision.
Who would sneeze at a $1.6 million investment in the heart of Cowes funded over 10 years by rental from the Phillip Island Nature Parks? Their rental payments will cover all principal and interest for their part of the development. At the end, the council retains the facility and can either occupy it or seek commercial rental. Not to mention an additional 30 staff working in Cowes and contributing to the vibrancy and economy of the town.
The concept has been around since December 2015 when the Cultural and Community Centre concept plan was adopted. This followed a significant community consultation process with a marquee in the town square and people’s input sought.
Where does the opposition come from? During the council election period, candidates were lobbied to commit to removing support for the civic centre project in favour of the Phillip Island aquatic centre project. I was cross about this as I saw it as a divisive move. In my ideal world, we would support each other’s projects across the community. In any event, these two projects mostly seek to tap different funding sources.
As well, I have heard criticism of the overall project, for example that it is too grand. I’m reminded of the comment by a friend: “You have to dare to dream”. I like that. If you only ever think small, you achieve small. We will soon have an iconic penguin centre that will shout modern and welcome. I would like to see something in Cowes that says the same.
Let’s talk the town up rather than find obstacles for every development. An enormous amount of money is being invested here, starting with $60 million penguin centre; $7 million on Phillip Island Road; $3.4 million on the civic centre and jetty triangle; $5.8 million on the Phillip Island health and medical hub. The Isle of Wight site has been purchased and the Continental is being upgraded.
It’s time to get on board. We have a wonderful blueprint for the future in the Phillip Island and San Remo Visitor Economy Strategy 2035, which sets targets and identifies projects that we should pursue. I don’t personally agree with everything in the strategy but I have committed to get on board for what I hope is the greater good we can achieve as a united community.