First things first; Council is re writing the Council Plan and a community engagement program was approved by council at the December meeting. This is your only real chance to influence council's planned approach so I urge you all to get involved and provide input.
I have been very impressed with the quality of our Shire team and the advice they give. I want to wish them all a merry Christmas and much patience in the new year.
Cowes Cultural Centre
The new council is settling in and had its first public disagreement at its meeting on Wednesday, voting six to three to shelve the proposed $17 million Cowes Cultural and Civic Centre.
This decision has stunned many as it had wide community support from the arts, business and community sectors. Through grants, it was expected to bring an additional $10 million of federal and state government investment into Cowes. On Wednesday, the recommendation was for the council to spend $800,000 on detailed design to get the project 'shovel ready' in order to apply for funding. After our funding application to the National Stronger Regions Fund failed this year, the Department indicated that was because the project was not ready to go immediately.
In the debate the argument from the Wonthaggi councillors was essentially that Council could not afford the project. I responded that by the same logic we cannot afford either of the Wonthaggi or Phillip Island swimming pools at around $20 million each or a new transfer station at $10 million. Cr Fullarton questioned the financial projections made by the consultants in the project submission.
The vote was lost with only one Island Ward councillor (me) and Westernport councillors Clare Le Serve and Geoff Ellis supporting the project.
Questions left hanging: Will the development to house the Phillip Island Nature Parks officers in the Cultural Centre go ahead? This would bring another 20 people into the heart of Cowes business district during the day to work, buy lunch and visit local stores.
Where will the Phillip Island Community and Learning Centre (PICAL) be located given that the Medical Hub will soon go to contract? How do we provide facilities for local arts groups?
What do we do about Game Changer Project 4 in the Visitor Economy Strategy 2035 that reads "Develop the Cowes Cultural Precinct Centre to create an active fronted site linking the two active ends of the main street."
Did Council consider these questions? Well no, we didn't.
What is going on?
I believe we have a trade-off of the cultural centre for the aquatic centre with a focus on the Phillip Island project. On Wednesday we approved the removal of the 50% community contribution previously required of the Phillip Island project, which I supported as I believe we should have an equal approach for the two aquatic projects. Planning on the project is well advanced and looks promising – if we can agree on a site.
So will we now see a grant application for the swimming pool replace that for the cultural centre? I believe that is likely and fits with the lobbying of candidates at the recent council election, where we were asked to agree to take funding from the cultural centre and give it to the aquatic centre.