September 2018 | Sharon Webb
THE HUGE rift between some Meander Valley councillors and Deloraine’s sporting leaders shows councillors must take a serious look at how well they communicate with their communities.
For four years Deloraine sports clubs have worked on a proposal to consolidate the town’s sports facilities, revving up over the past year to gain $98,000 from three bodies for a feasibility study.
Meander Valley Council was one of the funding contributors, even using its staff to apply for a State Government grant. Mayor Craig Perkins posed for newspaper photos with the sports club leaders, councillors said the study should be put out for consultation to all community groups.
And then at the August council meeting they tried to dud the project.
It’s easy to understand nervousness around the costs of such a project, especially after councillors’ reluctance to increase rates by five per cent.
But even after doing the rounds of the budget allocations, they still had to increase rates by almost 4.5 per cent, and some nice projects were lost in that little axing.
Sometimes, as Launceston City Council has found, you have to up the rates to provide what people want, even if it costs you more to bury grandma.
The Deloraine recreation project was going along swimmingly, without expectations by the sports clubs that new facilities would be instantaneous. They knew the changes would be incremental over time, but at least there would be a long-term plan.
For some reason some councillors got cold feet.
That’s in stark contrast to the recent Westbury recreation situation where, similar to Deloraine, a community had dragged on for decades with non-existent council responses to its calls for better football and cricket change-rooms.
And this year what did councillors come up with?
A two-storey ‘recreation’ centre with change-rooms and a gym on the lower floor and a 200-person function centre with state-of-the art kitchens on top.
It took a public meeting full of outraged and derisive Westbury people for the council to back down.
Interestingly, councillors told me that because they’d created the industrial zone Valley Central, they wanted people working there to think Westbury would be a good place to live: “So they need to have good recreation facilities.”
Westbury people didn’t want that; they wanted a village atmosphere for their town.
Deloraine wants better sports facilities. Why?
A prominent business owner told me this: “I know Deloraine families who have moved to Launceston so their kids can play sport. I also know families who drive to Launceston three times a week so their kids can play sport.
“And when they’re in Launceston they do their shopping, they eat out. They spend their money in Launceston, not Deloraine.”
Angrily: “In 10-20 years we’ll be a town of old people if we don’t have these facilities.”
At the August council meeting Cllr Bob Richardson said Deloraine shouldn’t have better recreation facilities because Hadspen and Bracknell are more deserving.
Hadspen is a town the same size as Deloraine but it needs an identity, he said.
Bracknell is more deserving because its sewage flows down the main street, he said.
But last time I looked I didn’t see Hadspen and Bracknell people applying for feasibility study funding, putting pressure on politicians, having public consultation sessions and doing the hard yards to get a plan together.
Deloraine sports teams did. And Meander Valley Council tried to dud them. Go figure.