"We have failed to grasp the opportunity to implement a game-changer project. All that was being asked for was $800,000 to get this project to shovel ready.”
Plans for the centre included an enlarged, modern library, new museum space, space for the historical and genealogy societies and Phillip Island Community & Adult Learning Centre, a community hall, cinema, theatre, concert hall and lecture theatre, meeting rooms, exhibition chamber, a tourist information and customer service centre and office space, with Phillip Island Nature Park Administration lined up as a major tenant.
A Cowes cultural and civic centre was a key project of the previous council, of which only one councillor was returned in the recent election.
Discussion on the project became heated as Cr Whelan pressed his fellow Island councillors to support it. “This is the sixth time a Master Plan for the project has been presented. Council will face severe reputational risk if yet again we do not proceed.”
He said the Cowes façade and buildings looked tired and there had been little money invested in the town in decades. “If we won't invest in our town, why would we expect the private sector to do so?”
Council modelling assessed the project as having a cost-benefit ration of 12.7 to the community, with 242 local jobs to be created.
In September, it failed to attract federal government funding from the National Stronger Regions Fund. Council officers recommended strengthening a repeat bid by completing detailed design documentation to demonstrate the project was “shovel ready”.
After the motion to proceed was defeated, councillors unanimously supported a motion to go to tender for detailed design and construction of the Cowes Jetty Triangle, a smaller component of the Cowes Revitalisation Project, with an estimated cost of $2.3 million.
The tender will include a hold point following detailed design to not proceed to construction until state or federal funding has been confirmed.
Councillors voted for a further report to be presented to the council detailing options for proceeding with the other components of the project, including a transit centre and all-day carpark.
The two other Island Ward councillors, Bass Coast Mayor Pamela Rothfield and Cr Stephen Fullarton, voted not to proceed with the project.
Both are members of the Phillip Island Progress Association (Stand Alone), which has claimed the island does not receive a fair share of council funding.
The Post put a series of questions to Cr Rothfield about the decision to shelve the project but did not receive a response by deadline.
Questions to Bass Coast Mayor Pamela Rothfield
- Stand Alone and PIPA have been very critical of the lack of spending on the island – why knock back such an important project as the CCCC?
- Why did the council decide against proceeding with detailed design for the project, given an estimated cost benefit ratio of 12.7 (almost $50 million in extra economic activity and 242 local jobs)?
- Is this the end of the Cowes cultural and civic centre project?
- Does the decision have significance for other major projects in Bass Coast (such as a Phillip Island aquatic centre and Wonthaggi cultural precinct)?