THE very sporty State Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty, visited South Gippsland last Wednesday and announced funding for a variety of projects keenly sought by local sporting clubs.
These include repairs to the Arthur Sutherland Recreation Reserve Stadium in Welshpool ($60,000); resurfacing two asphalt courts for Foster Tennis Club ($22,000); a planning development study for Port Welshpool and District Bowling Club ($3945); and two $500 Victalent grants for Fish Creek Football and Netball Club.
It was particularly sporting of the Minister to travel all the way to Gippsland from his home town of Horsham, one of the towns worst affected by the floods which have beset western Victoria. Mr Delahunty said that his own street was flooded and his home was only centimetres from being inundated. He apologised for the absence of the member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan, who as Deputy Premier, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, has been very much caught up in the flood crisis.
Mr Delahunty’s first stop in South Gippsland Shire was the Arthur Sutherland Recreation Reserve in Welshpool. There, in front of a huge crowd, including many young basketballers in the midst of a tournament, he announced that the Coalition Government would contribute $60,000 towards the upgrade of the stadium.
“Sport plays such an important part in the lives of so many Victorians,” Mr Delahunty said.
“The upgrade will pave the way for the introduction of even more sporting opportunities for the local community, boosting participation in community sport.”
The project will include the replacement of existing roof sheets, basketball rings and adjustable backboards, as well as an upgrade to the existing lighting and electrics and new wall installation.
“The repairs will also enhance spectator comfort at the stadium and bolster community use,” Mr Delahunty said.
He congratulated the South Gippsland Shire on its $10,000 contribution towards the project as well as the Welshpool community on its $20,000 input and close to $3,400 of in-kind support.
The president of the stadium committee, David Grylls, thanked the Minister and the shire for the funding and said he was grateful to all the people who had made it possible. He paid special tribute to the hardworking committee members who had completed the paperwork to secure the grant.
Committee members noted that particular thanks are due to Marzia Maurilli, who as the community facilitator for the Welshpool and Toora communities has been invaluable in getting community projects such as this off the ground.
At the same event Mr Delahunty announced almost $4,000 of Victorian Government funding through the Country Action Grant Scheme (CAGS) to the Port Welshpool and District Bowling Club. The grant will go towards a planning development study aimed to ensure the long term viability of the club.
“We are very pleased to get this grant,” said bowls club president Anne Collins. “It will allow us to prepare a five-year plan to get us started on improvements for the club.”
It is worth noting that back in 2009 the stadium began its redevelopment with the securing of funding for a similar plan.
South Gippsland Shire mayor Warren Raabe said that the shire would be contributing $1325 towards the plan for the bowls club. He said that is was becoming an ever larger role for the shire to oversee grants for projects from their seeding to their implementation.
The Minister remarked in his speech that basketball was his number two sport after football (he used to play for Essendon), and after the formalities were over it did not take much to prevail upon him to shoot a few hoops. He promptly scored three goals out of three tries, impressing his audience and showing that he is aptly named Sports Minister!
FOSTER TENNIS CLUB
Next stop for the Minister was Foster, where he was guest of the Foster Tennis Club.
Cr Mohya Davies, a Foster resident herself, welcomed the Minister and assembled dignitaries. These included representatives of the shire and of the Department of Planning and Community Development, through which the Community Facility Funding Program is run. Mr Delahunty announced a funding boost of $22,000 through the funding program towards the upgrade of two of the tennis club’s courts.
Cr Davies thanked Mr Delahunty for the tremendous effort he had made to get to Foster from flooded Horsham.
Mr Delahunty said he knew how important it was to visit regional communities such as Foster and bring them the good news of grants.
He paid tribute to the shire’s grants officer, Penni Ellicott, for her effort in helping small communities get grants and said he understood the challenges often faced by small communities. Although he now lives in Horsham, he grew up in the very small town of Murtoa.
“Upgrading the last two asphalt courts to synthetic grass will encourage more people to get involved in their community and lead a more active lifestyle,” said Mr Delahunty.
He said synthetic grass surfaces, such as the funding will deliver for Foster, were more durable, easy to maintain and provided more cushion for players of all ages.
He commended the club and South Gippsland Shire Council on their contributions towards the project of $5,500 each.
Mr Delahunty said that he had been a board member of VicHealth in recent years and was a strong believer in the importance of sport and the need to tear people away from being couch potatoes.
The Baillieu government, he said, was keen to lift the level of Victorian sport and would be funding more opportunities for training and development of sport in the state.
Matt Wallis, president of Foster Tennis Club, thanked the Minister and the shire, particularly grants officer Penni Ellicott, for the funding. He paid especial tribute to club treasurer Robert Paragreen, for his hard work in writing the grant application, and also thanked club secretary Wendy Williamson and other club members for their support. He also thanked the various tennis club members and friends, about a dozen in all, who had turned out on the day to show their support for the club and have a hit.
FISH CREEK FOOTBALL/NETBALL
While he was at Foster, Mr Delahunty also announced two $500 Coalition Government Victalent grants for Fish Creek Football and Netball Club.
“This boost will assist two players or coaches from the club with the cost of travel to Melbourne and around South Gippsland for training and development,” Mr Delahunty said.
Club secretary Mick McLoughlin, who was accompanied to Foster by three young Fish Creek football players, thanked Mr Delahunty for the grants and said they would be put to good use.
Again, after the formalities, Mr Delahunty was easily persuaded to demonstrate his sporting prowess, this time with a tennis racquet. And the Minister for Sport, a sporting and sporty minister indeed, did not disappoint.