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Mayor responds to Sport and Rec Centre criticism

Mayor responds to Sport and Rec Centre criticism
08 August 2018

    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:

    • Our sports facilities are ageing. Council is looking to the future to ensure our young people, and indeed all of the community, have access to a centralised facility creating a synergy between basketball, tennis, netball, aquatics, other sports and community activities.
    • Sport can be a vehicle for positive social change. It encourages participation, develops talent and contributes to the health and wellbeing of individuals and groups. It also has a positive impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the community, decreasing stress and depression. Sport can help achieve developmental outcomes in areas such as health, social cohesion, gender equity and disability inclusion.
    • A sport and recreation centre promotes an active, healthy lifestyle, but also provides a sense of belonging and aids the development of life skills and leadership abilities.
    • Through participation, sport helps address anti-social behaviour and can support education.
    • Sport brings people together and fosters teamwork and goal setting, builds resilience, commitment and pride at a community level, as well as personal development for individuals.
    • As part of community consultation for the Youth Engagement Strategy our youth called for fit for purpose recreational facilities in a centralised location.
    • As part of community consultation for the Culture and Heritage Plan, participants identified that there is a need for inclusive facilities that cater for year round performances, events and activities.
    • The creation of ongoing employment opportunities.

    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:

    • Council will contribute up to $10million to this project, but only if the Federal Government provides $20million, the State Government provides $10million and the community decides that it is in favour of the facility. Council has very low levels of debt and has significant borrowing capacity to fund its portion.
    • The facility is not a done deal, we’re currently working with a range of community stakeholders to put the funding proposal together. We will know more about operational costs in September.
    • The grant we’re applying for is specifically for regional facilities such as the Sport and Recreation Centre proposal. These funds can’t be diverted into any other facility or project. Councils don’t fund hospitals, schools or drug rehabilitation centres. State and Federal Governments are responsible for funding these facilities.

    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 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