Meander Valley Gazette

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Recreation centre decision revisited

FeatureJoanne EisemannComment

April 2018 | Sharon Webb

MEANDER VALLEY councillors have heard objections made at February’s public meeting regarding plans for a new recreation centre and withdrawn the project.

The council will now consult user groups and prepare a design for the upgrade and refurbishment of existing Westbury Recreation Ground facilities used mainly by the local cricket and football teams.

Cllr Connor acknowledged few people at the 140-strong public meeting had supported plans for a two-storey building costing up to $5m, with sport team facilities on the ground floor topped with a function centre seating 200 people.

“This whole thing has been a mess,” he said. “Let’s just get something happening.”

Cllr Tanya King said the meeting had given council a clear direction on what the community did and didn’t want.

At the public meeting motions put by residents Pam Swain and Sean Manners requested council:

• Halt the function side of the project;

• Increase consultation by establishing a working group including community members;

• Upgrade current football and cricket facilities quickly.

The Westbury Recreation Ground project has been a saga, growing from a $12,000 change room upgrade in 2012 to a $5m fully-fledged function centre in 2017, funded from council reserves and with projected operating costs of $145,000 a year.

Before residents finally demanded a public meeting, the project had reached the unusual point where Councillors were attempting to design the building, frustrated by design costs.

But some Councillors appeared still to be smarting from defeat on the issue.

Cllr Bob Richardson refused to accept the public meeting’s recommendations because he hadn’t been allowed access to a list of the names of those attending.

Cllr Ian Mackenzie said: “I have spent many hours on the proposed Community Function Centre and I am very disappointed that the majority of the community members did not support council’s vision to revitalise Westbury.”

Cllr Rod Synfield did not support the motion to get on with planning the new sports facilities: “How can you spend a considerable amount of money on just two sporting teams? It can’t be justified.

“It’s a waste of our effort; our proposal allowed other groups to use the building, not just two teams.”

Cllr John Temple questioned whether it would be cheaper and better to knock down the current sports facilities and rebuild. Council manager Martin Gill confirmed council staff’ would decide that.