THE latest Aquatic Strategy from South Gippsland Shire Council takes into account the high value communities across the shire place on their local swimming pools.
Council was left in no doubt of this when it released the draft strategy back in July last year. An estimated 600 people attended the public meetings and over 860 individual submissions and three joint submissions containing 2500 names were received in response to the draft document. Response was particularly strong from the Mirboo North community, who considered that the strategy gave undue priority to the pools at Leongatha (SG SPLASH), Toora and Korumburra at the expense of the less well patronised pools at Mirboo North, Foster and Poowong. They feared that Mirboo North would miss out on funding for much-needed improvements.
The key themes from the consultation included:
A comparison between seasonal outdoor pools and SG SPLASH is not a fair comparison;
The community want to retain local access to a seasonal aquatic facility;
All the pool facilities are highly valued by their communities for their recreation, health and social engagement services;
Lower participation venues are being disadvantaged by not being offered Council support for capital improvements;
Council should be supporting all communities that demonstrate significant financial commitment towards improving their local pools.
At a briefing to councillors last Wednesday, the shire’s recreation coordinator, Ian Murphy, gave an outline of the latest draft of the strategy, known in full as ‘Strategic Direction for Aquatic Facilities in South Gippsland 2012 – 2016.’ It was hot off the press, so they had had little opportunity in which to digest it, but judging by their questions to Council, the dozen or so Friends of Mirboo North Swimming Pool at the briefing appeared to receive the new document favourably.
Mr Murphy pointed out that in many respects the strategy had not changed. The ‘use it or lose it’ maxim still applies, for instance. Council will consider the future viability of pools – and possibly close them – if trigger points, such as reduced patronage, arise.
Also unchanged is Council’s capital works focus on maintaining the current level of service at the pools and the fact that seeking external funding will be subject to resolution of Council.
A key change is that all five local pools – Foster, Toora, Mirboo North, Korumburra and Poowong – will be treated equally strategically, with only SG SPLASH given special treatment as the municipal pool which services the entire municipality. Council will continue to plan for the improvement to this facility.
Furthermore, Council will plan for the renovation of all local outdoor pools, subject to trigger points, and master plans will be developed for all facilities – Mirboo North and Korumburra in 2012/13 and Poowong, Foster and Toora in 2013/14. Council will consider supporting well developed proposals for capital extension/upgrade at any facility. Community and external sources must provide the majority (70 per cent) of funding.
Cr David Lewis, who strongly sympathised with the Mirboo North community’s dim view of the earlier strategy, said that a key improvement in the new document was that it “utilises the energy of the community more to make decisions” rather than trying to pick winners. “It’s a significant change,” he said. “It’s better for everybody and should ultimately result in a lower cost for ratepayers. The sentiment in this is a big plus. We’ll see how the master plans come out, if Council decides to accept this.”
Council will consider adopting the strategy at its next meeting on February 22. Before then the public will have three further opportunities to raise issues of concern in the strategy with Council – the Wednesday afternoon and evening a week before the meeting and immediately prior to the meeting.