CORANGAMITE federal member Sarah Henderson has splashed back into the debate about a pool for Torquay, declaring that “the time is now” for the Surf Coast Shire to take action.
The swell of support for a pool in the community has been relatively low since the shire’s decision in late 2015 to stop all further planning on its $29 million proposal for the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre.
Speaking to this paper on Tuesday, Ms Henderson – who has been frequently vocal in her support for a pool – called on the council to put an aquatic centre on its list of projects for priority funding.
“There are thousands of families in the Surf Coast that are crying out for this facility and it is ridiculous that the council has stymied every attempt to progress this project over many years.
“Now the federal government has put $5 million towards the multi-purpose stadium in Torquay, which will see it fully funded, there are simply no more excuses.”
The 2015 proposal included a dedicated rate rise and a 20-year special charge scheme to cover construction and operating costs, which Ms Henderson repeatedly denigrated at the time as a “pool tax” – a charge she repeated this week, saying the model was “designed to ensure the project would fail”.
“A number of councillors claimed to be ‘pool champions’ (at the time), and we have not seen any pool champions come from this council.”
The shire received more than 1,200 pieces of feedback about the 2015 proposal, and 47 per cent of the responses did not support the centre in any form (regardless of design or funding model).
Despite this, Ms Henderson said there was “enormous appetite” for an aquatic centre not just for people living in the immediate Torquay area but across the Surf Coast Shire.
She would not commit to pledging funds towards a pool at the coming federal election.
“Federal and state grants have an important role to play in delivering this infrastructure, but this cannot be achieved without the council’s support and vision.”
During the 2016 federal election, Ms Henderson set up a billboard with the slogan “Fighting for a Surf Coast Pool” on the Surf Coast Highway, but later covered this up.
Explaining the decision soon afterwards, she said: “At this time, my focus is on supporting infrastructure projects which have widespread community support”.