THE city’s three mayoral contenders have weighed in on the proposed multi-million dollar sports and recreation hub for Mount Gambier, following the announcement of a massive funding boost under the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
Member for Barker Tony Pasin made the surprise announcement at Friday night’s Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Awards, stating $15m had been set aside for the project.
Mount Gambier City Council released intermediate designs and draft financial modelling for the proposed hub last week, revealing an estimated capital cost of $39.1m.
Council will continue lobbying the State Government to contribute at least $10m towards construction of the hub, while the council will provide up to $10m for the development – approximately 25pc of the project cost.
While incumbent mayor Andrew Lee and Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce president Lynette Martin were positive about the project, Mark Jones was critical of the design process.
“This project has been rushed from the very start,” Mr Jones said.
“Tony Pasin announced the possibility of being able to get $20m of federal money and Troy Bell indicated he would try to get $10m from the State Government.
“There was a constrained design process where the council created the community reference group, whose membership was strictly determined by selection criteria.
“The selection criteria effectively pre-determined the outcome of the group – the broader community was effectively shut out of the formal process to determine what facilities the centre contained.”
Mr Jones said the council should revisit the design process and include two features – solar panels on the roof of the complex and a water slide.
“The solar panels will help supply the high power required for running such a complex, while the water slide provides a much needed recreational feature which by itself would be an important drawcard for the complex,” he said.
“Not only would this feature provide an obvious benefit to the local community, but it could also aid tourism.
“We now know the Federal Government is only prepared to contribute $15m, so this provides an opportunity to revisit the design process to create a complex that maximises the benefit to the whole community.”
Ms Martin congratulated the current council and Mr Pasin on securing the federal funding commitment.
“I urge the State Government to commit significant funding also, so that council borrowings would be minimal,” Ms Martin said.
“If this could be achieved and council’s commitment to the funding is within its budget then the proposal will be put to the community for a poll – which I called for in late July.”
She was adamant the facility should not be a burden on ratepayers now or in future.
“It is of paramount importance a transparent document in regard to the financials is produced before an informed decision can be made,” Ms Martin said.
“If it can be shown the city can afford such a project, I believe it would be beneficial in attracting tourists and contribute to the renewal of the CBD with a flow-on to surrounding businesses.”
Market research company Market Solutions has been appointed to conduct a postal survey of more than 19,000 electors within the city to gauge community support for the project to determine whether it will proceed.
The survey will include a “yes” or “no” question and will be distributed in late November, closing on December 21.
Mr Lee said he was confident an overwhelming majority of the community would vote to progress the project.
“An indoor aquatic facility is something the community has been demanding for the last 30 years,” he said.
“To apply for this funding we needed to present a business case, which is why the facility needs to incorporate indoor courts and dry areas – to simply build an indoor pool is not viable.
“This will not just be a sporting complex – it will be a community hub.”
Mr Lee defended the design consultation process and reiterated council’s plan for wider community engagement.
“We have always maintained the community will have the final say and contribute to the final design,” he said.
“We cannot consult the broader community on a project for which we have no detailed information – this is why we had to first commission an initial design to determine building costs and ongoing operating costs and secure funding.
“We had been working on a model wherein the Federal Government would contribute $20m, the State Government $10m and council $10m and based on those figures we revealed the project would be cost neutral for the community.
“Now the Federal Government has announced its $15m commitment, we will continue to lobby the state and we have a strong case to secure that extra $5m.
“During the last term, council has been spending money wisely and paying off debt and that good management has put us in a position to pursue this.”