Henderson says Labor’s pool plan is a hoax

October 18, 2021 BY

Corangamite Labor federal member Libby Coker (right) and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Catherine King announce the $20 million election commitment in Drysdale. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

COMMUNITY groups have hailed federal Labor’s $20 million promise for an indoor pool at the North Bellarine Aquatic Centre (NBAC), but Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson says it is a “cruel hoax” for Labor to claim this election pledge could be combined with $10 million already committed by the Liberals towards the facility.

Corangamite Labor federal member Libby Coker and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Catherine King made the election commitment on October 6.

They also urged the City of Greater Geelong to halt and review the city’s just-launched tender process for a $15.45 million 50-metre outdoor pool at the Drysdale Sporting Precinct, saying as much as $35.45 million ($20 million from Labor’s pledge, $10 million from the Liberals and $5.45 million from the city) could be spent on the centre.

North Bellarine Aquatic Centre Advocacy Group chair Anne Brackley said she was very happy with Labor’s announcement.

“The City of Greater Geelong are already planning stage 2 (of the centre), and this pledge comes as beautiful timing, so it’s fantastic,” Ms Brackley said.

“I’d love it to be the one project with one stage, but we’ll see what happens next and how quickly the federal election happens, and how quickly we can see who gets into government.”

Drysdale Curlewis Clifton Springs Association committee member and former president Mercedes Drummond said the Liberals’ $10 million – pledged by Sarah Henderson when she was the then-member for Corangamite – was “never going to provide anything substantial to meet the needs of our community” and she was concerned about what the city would do next.

“Are they going to embrace the fact they potentially have $20 million more? Are they going to understand that the community wants an indoor pool facility?”

Senator Henderson said stage 1 of NBAC was “contracted, fully funded and proceeding full steam ahead”.

“I wish to assure Bellarine residents that Labor has no legal authority, under a binding funding agreement with council, to shut down construction of the outdoor pool or seize any of the Commonwealth money allocated to this project.

“Libby Coker’s divisive and under-funded plan is nothing more than a cruel hoax.”

She cited a recent letter from federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck to city chief executive officer Martin Cutter about NBAC, which stated the city had received $2.5 million of the $10 million on June 18 and was scheduled to receive a further $2.5 million in November.

Geelong deputy mayor Trent Sullivan said the council’s vision was to deliver the facility in a two-stage process.

“We are keen to have discussions with Labor to understand in detail what their proposal involves, what it would cost in total, and whether or not it could be complementary to stage one of the facility.”

Neither Senator Henderson nor Cr Sullivan responded to questions about whether the Liberals had imposed any kind of timeline on their $10 million commitment.

Ms Coker insisted Labor’s plan would work, and claimed Liberal candidate for Corangamite (and incumbent Geelong mayor) Stephanie Asher had a conflict of interest.

“If Labor is elected at the coming federal election, we will become the contractual partner in the pool funding and will free the funding so all federal funds can be used to construct a first-class indoor pool and aquatic centre,” she said.

“The next few weeks before a decision on the tender process is now a major test of the character for the mayor. Is she working for the people, or the Liberal Party?”

Thank you for supporting local journalism!