I’m appalled about the ongoing campaign to undermine the Morrison Government’s commitment to provide $20 million for the Surf Coast aquatic centre.

I have always been a true warrior for the people I represent, advocating without fear or favour.

On 14 April 2019 I announced $30 million for two aquatic centres in the Corangamite electorate – one for the Surf Coast Shire and the other in north Bellarine.

These funding commitments were the result of an incredible amount of hard work on my part.

The current Labor member for Corangamite, along with Mayor Rose Hodge, who was her notional campaign manager, campaigned against an aquatic centre on the Surf Coast for years.

In 2015 Surf Coast Shire councillors, including the now Member for Corangamite, passed a motion blocking any development of an aquatic centre for Torquay.

From the shocking pool tax proposal to the concerted effort to undermine earlier attempts to secure an aquatic centre, Labor councillors on Surf Coast Shire have really betrayed the community they represent, including Ms Coker.

Aquatic centres are expensive and without Commonwealth support the Surf Coast and Bellarine communities may miss out.

I am delighted that, under the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Asher, the City of Greater Geelong has embraced the proposal for a new outdoor 50 metre pool supported by $10 million of funding from our government.

Aquatic centres are vital for community health well-being and swimming safety. This is vital community infrastructure and is so important for young people learning to swim, community fitness and for seniors.

Corangamite is a very large coastal electorate and the drownings continue. In Victoria alone, since 2013 there have been 270 drownings and 4,168 rescues.

I am determined to do everything to stand up for my community and the dozens of groups which desperately want these facilities. I say to the Surf Coast Shire councillors who oppose this development that you should resign and let someone else do the job. 

I have met with one facilities company, by way of an example, which has the capacity to run the aquatic centre at lower cost and also cap the risk to Council.  The Council has simply not done its homework and, as a result, Surf Coast residents are paying the price.

As for Richard Marles, he could not advocate his way out of a brown paper bag. He has done absolutely nothing to support the Northern Arc aquatic facility, determining before the election to commit $20 million to Kardinia Park and not a cent to the Northern Arc project.

7 February 2020

By way of background, please see Senator Henderson’s letter to Surf Coast Shire on 20 January 2020 prior to council’s consideration of a feasibility study:

I appreciate that council is proposing to conduct a feasibility study.  I believe this is a good idea as it’s clear to me, after our meeting with the CEO and Mayor at the end of last year, that council does not have accurate data including as to issues such as population catchment.  Council was also not aware that similar facilities run by COGG are operating at surplus.  There are also a number of financial models about which council was not aware which can bring down the cost and dramatically limit council’s risk/liability and these need to be properly considered.

I am concerned by the suggestion, however, that council is only prepared to examine options which do not involve it making any capital contribution. The feasibility study needs to examine all of the options so that councillors and the community can be properly informed. It seems unreasonable to me that council would not make a capital contribution when this is such a vital community facility.  No other council in Australia has received such substantial government funding to construct an aquatic facility and I am concerned that, without some capital contribution from council, the opportunity to construct a state of the art aquatic facility will be severely compromised.  If council can find more than $3 million for Stribling Reserve in a project in which the Australian Government is an equal funding partner, then surely it’s equitable that council makes some capital contribution to the cost of an aquatic facility which will service a catchment of almost 50,000 people?

In the briefing note, I note your reference to the Testing the Water survey which I have verified was nothing more than a political exercise to dissuade ratepayers from backing an aquatic facility; this survey which included the proposal of a “pool tax” has no statistical integrity and should not be relied upon in council’s consideration.

I am also concerned that the Australian Government’s position is not accurately represented. Let me reiterate that it is a condition of the $20 million in funding that the aquatic facility includes a 50 metre pool.  This can be achieved a number of ways including by utilising a movable bulkhead which can turn a 50 metre pool into two pools of approximately 25 metres each.  Council may also wish to consider a more cost effective plan being the construction of an outdoor 50 metre pool which would sit alongside an indoor “program” pool and other indoor facilities.  In the costings I obtained in May 2018 from one of the country’s leading developers of aquatic facilities, a 50 metre outdoor pool was costed at $6 million; an overhead membrane at $1 million (this is just for the pool and membrane on level ground, not for any surrounding infrastructure such as carparks, walkways).

Can I also suggest that you need to consider the car parking needs of the aquatic facility in your feasibility study.  The North Torquay precinct, once the multi-purpose stadium is complete, will be extremely busy and I am not sure that the site next to the council offices will be sufficient to accommodate users of the aquatic facility also. A critical part of any aquatic facility’s success is sufficient car parking to accommodate gymnasium members and other users.

As also discussed at our meeting, I wish to clarify that it was always our government’s expectation that this facility would include consulting rooms, a gymnasium and café etc  … there is no suggestion that the Commonwealth is not on the same page as the State in this respect.  However, I note that the State’s contribution of $10 million is not sufficient to deliver a 25 metre pool and these additional facilities.

It is our preferred option that council should construct and maintain this facility, either directly or through a third party provider.  Should council not be prepared to include a 50 metre pool as part of an aquatic facility, then it the government’s intention to seek another proponent which can deliver on the government’s commitment to Corangamite residents. I would be grateful if you could provide a copy of my email to councillors as part as your consideration tomorrow evening.

Categories: Media Release