Meander Valley Gazette

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Capacity crowd rejects plan

NewsJoanne EisemannComment

MARCH 2018 | Sharon Webb

A PUBLIC meeting of around 140 people at the Westbury Town Hall has told Meander Valley councillors to rethink their plan for a two-storey function/recreation centre in the town.

Motions put by Pam Swain and Sean Manners and supported by a large majority of attendees asked council to:

• Halt the function side of the project; • Increase consultation by establishing a working group including community members; • Upgrade current football and cricket facilities quickly.

While all Meander Valley councillors attended the meeting, the majority of speakers were residents and community group members. Liz Daley from Launceston was chair and the meeting was orderly.

Sean Manners said many Westbury residents had told him they had no objection to a reasonable upgrade of sports facilities, but questioned council’s non-endorsement of the project’s $15,000 business plan.

“That plan noted 17 under-utilised facilities around Westbury and said needs could be met by refurbishing existing facilities,” he said.

“We’re a village in the Meander Valley, not a city. The facility needs to reflect the wishes and wants of the residents, not create something that may cost us dearly in the future.”

Michael Claxton from the Westbury Shamrocks Cricket Club and Geo˜ Wadley from the Meander Valley Football Club were damning in their criticism of current sports facilities as “the worst in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association”, saying the “stench of urine” in them is unacceptable.

“We’ve been back and forth to council for years over this,” Mr Claxton said.

“Our cricket club has a 70 year history and is a pathway to national cricket, but it’s difficult to attract people to it because of the poor facilities. “The club relies on fundraising events to exist now; how much will a two-storey building cost us to run?”

Cllr Ian Mackenzie backgrounded the current proposal, saying that councillors had become involved in the design process.

“We were frustrated by not getting the plans we wanted and the cost,” he said.

Cllr Rodney Synfield said the current design was a concept plan: “The place is disgusting and it’s ridiculous to fix it. We are trying to give you a modern facility.”

Dinah Fitzgerald from the advisory committee of the Westbury Health Centre said it is used to the maximum.

“We want to be able to cater for larger groups. In communities where people live happy lives the two most important things are community engagement and the development of significant relationships.

“Anything that brings the community together for sport and social functions improves mental health and decreases depression.”

Westbury resident Di Robinson said good sports facilities were important for children’s development: “We should take the first step to upgrade those and look at the big picture later on.”

Several residents commented on the “shock” of the $5M cost of the building; another asked council manager Martin Gill how council would recoup the $145,000 annual cost of running the facility.

“That has yet to be discussed,” Mr Gill said. “But councillors have commented that Westbury is struggling to maintain its population and needs to build a facility that would attract families to the area.”

Other residents commented on the unsuitability of the upstairs kiosk location in the current plans and the undesirability of a two-storey building in a village setting.

Photo | Mike Moores