Phillip Island residents should start lobbying all Bass Coast Shire councillors to ensure Cowes gets a community pool.
That’s the message from the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund after councillors last week voted to accept a feasibility study – for pools in both Cowes and Wonthaggi – and release it for community consultation, at the Phillip Island Leisure Centre, June 9 and 12, 9am to 1pm.
The feasibility study proposes Phillip Island should have a 25m x eight lane pool, learn-to-swim combined hydrotherapy area, 24-hour gym, and two indoor sports courts, at a cost of $52 million.
The study recommends a $41 million new pool for Wonthaggi – with the current pool built in 1975 – including 25m x 10 lanes, a larger gym, new spa and sauna.
While the shire will lobby state and federal governments for the combined $93 million pool budget, Cr Les Larke last week said it was unlikely the shire would successfully receive those funds.
“Realistically we can’t afford two pools requiring $90 to $100 million in funding, regardless of council’s advocacy,” said Cr Larke, the only councillor to vote against adopting the study.
“My belief is that one regional pool is a realistic objective.”
Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund secretary Peter McMahon said while they supported the shire in seeking joint funding, if a decision had to be made on one pool, it should be Cowes.
“Both centres are needed and if they believe they can get two lots of funding, fantastic,” said Peter, who returned home last week from a month in hospital after suffering two heart events and two heart surgeries.
“If they can’t, then a decision needs to be made on which one is more vital. The only way we can push Phillip Island ahead of Wonthaggi is if the community gets behind this and makes some noise. People should contact all the councillors – not just the Island Ward – to express their concern and position. Councillors will only do something if they get hounded.”
One pool or two?
Cr Bruce Kent agreed both pools would be “fantastic”.
“But they have to be paid for with multi-millions of dollars,” Cr Kent said.
“Which pool do we look at first or do we consider doing both at the same time, knowing the cost factors.”
Cr Michael Whelan said the community needed to “get together and show a united face to government”, to take the funding request to the next state and Federal elections and “hopefully the funds will be forthcoming”.
Cr Ronnie Bauer said he was sad neither pool was 50m, adding Phillip Island needed a dedicated hydrotherapy and learn-to-swim pool.
Cr Clare Le Serve acknowledged Phillip Island had been lobbying for a community pool for many decades.
Cr Leticia Laing said while pools were “sorely needed” in both towns, Wonthaggi’s was “leaking its guts out”.
The feasibility study released last week was written by the same consultants, Otium Planning, who wrote the last feasibility study for the Phillip Island Aquatic centre in 2016.
Peter McMahon said in the 2016 study Otium recommended a dedicated, separate hydrotherapy pool and learn to swim pool.
However in this latest study, Otium recommends combining these pools with a moveable floor to raise or lower the water levels for children or adults.
“They need to go back to the original plans. I can’t understand why in a short space of time things have changed to bring about this short cut,” Peter said.
“They need a dedicated pool for each of these, otherwise it’s counterproductive. They tried combining facilities at Wonthaggi and it failed.”
The study recommends the Cowes aquatic centre would have a learn to swim pool (20m x 12m); a 23m x 23m splash pad and a 60m2 toddlers pool; two water slides; a 100-seat spectator area; spa, and dry and steam sauna; change rooms; and in the foyer area there will be offices, a reception, lounge, café, kitchen, storage
There will be a large 24-hour gym (600m2) with two group fitness rooms and two sports courts (but no squash courts).
The study states the option of constructing a 50m pool “has been analysed but found to not be sustainable”, based on population size and on the extra $8 million such a pool would require to construct, as well as the annual $250,000 operation costs.
It adds a 50m pool could be constructed in the future.
Peter said one pool in Bass Coast should be 50 metres.
Case for Cowes
Peter acknowledged Wonthaggi’s pool needed to be upgraded, but the feasibility study said it had a further life of 10 years.
“So why would you knock it down now when it’s still in operational condition?”
He said Cowes had been lobbying for a pool long before he started, dating back to 1984 when Cowes Primary built its pool to fill the void.
“It’s needed more than ever now with our ageing population and amount of kids needing to learn to swim.”
Peter questioned the figures used by Otium, including that Wonthaggi would receive more visitors than Cowes and that Cowes’ proposed facility would be more expensive.
He said now the shire had released the study, Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund would be approaching business for fundraising.
He said the buy-a-brick campaign still had more than $100,000 in funds (with detailed financial reports on the fund’s website), adding he welcomed the proposed $100,000 funding by the Bendigo Bank last week for a dedicated hydrotherapy pool in the proposed new aquatic centre.
The 2020/2021 shire budget allocated $2.8 million to create an aquatic centre business case and planning. Otium Planning in 1996 wrote the first feasibility study for the Phillip Island Aquatic centre, paid for by state government.
Earlier this year the shire was believed to have paid $2.7 million for the purchase of the carnival land – at the intersection of Phillip Island and Ventnor roads – for the creation of a 32 hectare sports hub, including the aquatic centre.
The feasibility study states the master plan of the proposed Phillip Island Recreational Reserve would be a “separate piece of work scheduled for future years”.
For more information on the aquatics project, to view the Concept Plans, or to fill out the survey visit www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/aquatics or contact Council.