Where is the equity in Council’s approach to the provision of Aquatic Centres in Bass Coast Shire?
No doubt Phillip Island ratepayers will be aware of Bass Coast Shire Council’s recent resolution to proceed with the upgrade of the Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre at an estimated total cost of $14.5 million (in a two stage process). No doubt ratepayers will also be aware that, at the same Council Meeting, the Council also resolved that an Aquatic Centre was also justified for Phillip Island, at an estimated total cost of $10.7 million (in an, as yet to be determined, multi staged process).
For the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre, Council resolved that the Phillip Island community would be required to raise 50% of the funds to pay for the costs of each of the stages, and all funds raised had to be in cash. That is, no in-kind donations e.g. no discounted earthworks, nor voluntary labour, could be counted in the 50%.
For the upgrade of the Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre, no such 50% funding requirement was placed on the Wonthaggi (and surrounding) area. On face value, that seems to be an inequitable treatment of the Phillip Island community. That different approach seemed to be based on the Council’s presumption that no contributions to funding were required for the redevelopment because Wonthaggi residents had built the existing Aquatic Centre solely from community funds.
But, the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund Incorporated has recently exhaustively researched documents and newspaper reports relating to the building of the existing Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre and found that Council’s presumption is seriously flawed.
The existing Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre was started to be built in 1978 at a total cost of $475,000 (which translates to $2.4 million in 2014 dollars). That cost in 1978 was funded by a mix of voluntary labour, State government funds and fundraising by the then Borough of Wonthaggi, Shire of Phillip Island and Woolamai, Shire of Bass and parts of the City of Cranbourne, Shires of Korumburra and Woorayl. That is, the State government, voluntary labour and all Boroughs in the current Shire made contributions to funding the Aquatic Centre; the Borough of Wonthaggi did not do it alone.
Phillip Island currently contributes 48% of all rate revenue in the Shire. And since Council amalgamations in 1994 has contributed more than its population share to funding the operating deficit of the existing Aquatic Centre (currently running at a massive $391,000 per year). And, through its rates, Phillip Island will also significantly contribute to the costs of the redevelopment.
If Council desired to treat the Phillip Island community equally with the Wonthaggi (and surrounding) area, it would require the Wonthaggi area to also raise 50% of the staged costs of the redevelopment of the existing Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre – that is an amount of $7.2 million. Being very generous, that amount could be discounted by the $2.4 million present day cost of the existing Aquatic Centre, i.e. a net $4.8 million would be required to be raised locally - by a similar fund to that which Council has insisted that the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund set up. That treatment would be very generous to Wonthaggi residents, given that they did not raise all the original $475,000 alone.
We are at a loss to understand how the logic of the above argument is not obvious even to Bass Coast Shire Councillors.
The current proposal by the Shire would see Phillip Island ratepayers and residents funding – through the $5.3 million Phillip Island Aquatic Centre funding target set by the Shire and through its rates - $13.5 million of the $25.3 million total cost of the two Aquatic Centres (that is 53.3%). The balance of funding is proposed to be provided by anticipated State government funds of $3.0 million (11.9%) and Wonthaggi and the rest of the Shire funding only $8.8 million (34.8%) through rates only. Councillors need to explain to all ratepayers of Bass Coast Shire how that is fair.
We also wish to say, at this stage we believe we can work with Council to bring about a better outcome than that that has been proposed. Currently neither Centre, has a detailed and comprehensive set of plans or costing and feel, it appropriate once they are designed, all ratepayers should have the opportunity to accept and acknowledge their approval.
The fund has many questions that we wish to raise with Council and look forward to having the opportunity to clarify them during the next twelve months.
Secretary P.I.A.C.F. Inc.