I wish to respond to comments about the proposed Mount Gambier Regional Sport and Recreation Centre made by Graham Greenwood OAM in his opinion column in The Border Watch. Mr Greenwood appears to be politicising the matter and looking in the rear-view mirror at the expense of focusing on community needs for the future. In the meantime, Council continues to act in the community’s best interests with a vision for a much-needed facility for future generations.
In 2013 Mr Greenwood indicated that Council and the community shouldn’t be afraid of moving ahead with a worthwhile project such as a heated pool (Greenwood, 2013, The Border Watch, 30 August, pg 8). Fast forward five years and Council is seeking Federal and State funding to do just that, build a 25 metre indoor heated pool incorporated within a sport and recreational facility as an inclusive hub for community life. However, it seems the scale of the development has turned Mr Greenwood cold.
The fact that Mr Greenwood is against the notion of a sport and recreation centre is not surprising given his critical perspective regarding any major project Council has undertaken throughout the past 10 years. In reference to the development of the Library, he called for accountability from Council. “When a council embarks on a project worth $10million, its dealings must be transparent and all relevant information available put on the table for public scrutiny” (Greenwood, 2008, The Border Watch, 27 June, pg. 9). To his credit, Mr Greenwood later admitted that he was wrong to criticise the Library development: “It has become Mount Gambier’s greatest community success story” (Greenwood, 2012, The Border Watch, 7 September, pg 8).
Drawing on the point of accountability, it’s worth noting that Council has been completely transparent about the grant application process for the proposed sport and recreation centre. As outlined in the Local Government Act, Council’s role is to encourage and develop initiatives within the community for improving the quality of life. It is our responsibility to provide the community with accurate information to ensure people can make an informed decision on the matter. Council is currently working through the process of design, costing and financial modelling to meet the Federal funding documentation requirements. However, Mr Greenwood continues to question our priorities. Last week he described me as ‘defiantly in denial’ about a ratepayer poll.
I question the motive behind Mr Greenwood’s fixation on forcing Council into a ratepayers poll. I feel his determination that a poll either for or against the proposed facility should be for ratepayers only, is elitist and discriminatory. Why shouldn’t our entire community have a say on a facility which will potentially be a major civic cornerstone for our city? Are those who rent a property not contributing to our city in a myriad of other ways?
Council is required to provide for the welfare, wellbeing and interests of all individuals and groups within the community. Therefore the call for a ratepayers only poll is flawed, as it would not incorporate the views of the entire community. Council will instead undertake an extensive engagement process including a survey which will be open to all community members to determine the level of support for the project. - Mayor Andrew Lee
In his column Mr Greenwood poses several questions - does the city need an indoor recreation centre? - Does society have its priorities wrong in spending $40million on such a project? Well, I ask you Mr Greenwood, what is the future health and wellbeing of our community worth? In 2013, a Roy Morgan research study of 20,000 people revealed that Mount Gambier and other Limestone Coast Council areas were some of the fattest areas in the nation with 79 per cent of people recorded as overweight or obese. This is not a title to be proud of and further strengthens the case for an indoor sport and recreation centre.
Here’s some additional reasons why a sport and recreation centre is important for our community:
Considering these points, it would seem that the proposed facility is a necessity as we move forward in developing a modern, attractive, central facility as an investment in our future generations.
Here’s the facts about the proposed project:
And one final point on the matter of accountability. Time passes quickly and it’s easy to forget some of the more recent infrastructure projects Council has undertaken, all managed with transparency, financial prudence and resulting in an enhanced, vibrant city for our greater community. I refer to the demolition of the former Hospital and the transformation of the grounds into a public reserve, the Railway Lands and the upgrade of the CBD – all projects completed within budget. I cannot emphasise enough that Council undertakes these projects for the community – that is our purpose and commitment - to serve the community. I’m not sure what more convincing Mr Greenwood needs.
As a former journalist, I would hope that Mr Greenwood carefully considers his responsibility and influence on the community when making comments within the media. I wonder why he insists on singlehandedly undermining a project proposal which is seeking a unique opportunity for $30million for our local community? His comments are potentially damaging to our chances of securing Federal and State Government funding.
If you would like to learn more about the work Council is doing on this proposal, or ask a question, please visit https://www.haveyoursaymountgambier.com.au We also encourage community feedback through the Community Reference Group made up of 17 community members, established to provide the community with an ongoing voice during the development stages.
If you have any questions about the Mount Gambier Regional Sport and Recreation Centre please feel free to contact Elected Members or myself directly on 8721 2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org