THE plans are out and everyone agrees they look great - but can we afford to build two aquatic centres at a cost of up to $90 million?
Bass Coast councillors voted this week to release feasibility studies for proposed and long-awaited aquatic centres at Wonthaggi and Cowes – and called on the community to help them decide the way ahead.
Moving the recommendation to release the report for public comment, Cr Michael Whelan noted there was a federal and a state election in the next two years. “We have an opportunity in the next two years with two elections to take this to the politicians and hope funds will be forthcoming.
"We’ve achieved that … Now it’s important the community gets on board because if we’re a divided community we’ll get nowhere. We need to show a united front to Government."
The studies will 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.
The studies, by Otium Planning Group In association with Peddle Thorp Architects & Turner Townsend Quantity Surveyors, found the current and predicted population of the shire did not justify the extra cost – estimated at about $8 million for each pool – of constructing a 50m pool. However, both facilities have been designed to allow a 50m pool to be constructed in the future.
They recommend an extra two lanes be added to a standard eight-lane pool to cater for a 20 per cent more users as the population grows.
The study estimates the cost of the Wonthaggi centre at $35-41 million and the Phillip Island centre (which incorporates a highball court) at almost $46 million for the aquatic centre and another $7 million for indoor sports and squash courts.
Each feasibility study recommends leisure and aquatic components based on population data, growth modelling and best-practice industry trends.
The proposed complex in Wonthaggi would be the regional centre for the shire, replacing the current pool, which was built in 1976. It remains within the Wonthaggi Sports Precinct but has been relocated to the corner of Korumburra Road and Wentworth Road. It would involve relocating the existing skate park and croquet club to another area within the sports precinct.
Cr Leticia Laing said the two facilities were sorely needed in Wonthaggi and Phillip Island.
“It’s great to see disabled access so people with a disability can enjoy these facilities, and to see a commitment to reducing the environmental impact with a focus on electricity to power the facilities.
“Hopefully it happens pretty soon because the Wonthaggi pool is leaking its guts out.”
Cr Bruce Kent said the council would be looking for support from the state and federal governments.
“We’re putting forward a good product – both pools – but they also have to be paid for. and that’s multi millions.
“We need some sort of decision making from the community to gauge which pool we look at first, or do we consider doing both, knowing what it will cost?”
Cr Ron Bauer was disappointed that neither facility would have a 50m pool which means they cannot host swimming championships
“I think it has to go out to the community. I think it’s very important for the Phillip Island community and the rest of Bass Coast to look at this proposal.”
Cr Les Larke was the only councillor to oppose releasing the feasibility study for comment.
“Basically we cannot afford a two-pool strategy requiring $90-100 million in funding, regardless of council’s potential advocacy. My belief is one regional pool is realistic and we need to rethink the strategy accordingly.”