Shire seeks last piece of aquatic centre’s funding puzzle

April 22, 2021 BY

An aerial view of the concept for the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre, from the feasibility study presented to the council in June 2020.

THE Surf Coast Shire council will try to find the last piece of the funding puzzle to make the Surf Coast Aquatic and Health Centre a reality.

Last week, the council received the good news that the state Labor Government had approved a $3.5 million allocation from the Growing Suburbs Fund (GSF) towards the $39.25 million facility, which is slated for a site in Torquay North next to Wurdi Baierr Stadium.

The $3.5 million from the GSF – most of the $4 million the council applied for – means the project has now secured $33.5 million of external funding, which also comprises election commitments of $20 million from the federal Coalition and $10 million from state Labor.

The council resolved in February to contribute $5.25 million of capital funding towards the aquatic and health centre to increase the attractiveness of their application to the GSF, which operates on a nominal dollar-for-dollar basis.

Surf Coast Shire mayor Libby Stapleton said she spoke to Minister for Local Government Shaun Leane and South Barwon Labor MP Darren Cheeseman two weeks ago about the importance of the project.

“We thank the Victorian Government for this further contribution, which will now allow council to finalise the funding puzzle and make the most of these unprecedented funding opportunities,” she said.

Cr Stapleton said the council had never been closer to resolving the long-standing and complex project and she was confident it could quickly find a way to resolve the last $500,000.

“Having the full budget ensures that the community can enjoy the full benefits to be offered, as well as minimises council’s operating costs,” she said.

“The GSF contribution will specifically establish essential wellbeing services meeting a critical infrastructure provision gap by providing allied health suites, office suites and meeting rooms for community and not-for-profit organisations.

“There will also be program spaces for community multi-use and supporting infrastructure to ensure effective operation of these spaces.

“We envisage it as a community facility that will offer much more than aquatic exercise and recreation.

“We see it as a place that will support wellbeing, good health and somewhere that people from across our community can come together, in line with the intent of Wurdi Baierr, our ‘big gathering place’ facility.”

Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson – who made the $20 million commitment while she was the previous member for Corangamite – said she was “absolutely ecstatic” about the GSF allocation.

“I’m very confident that the council will find that $500,000 shortfall, so the fact we almost have a fully-funded aquatic centre for the Surf Coast region is wonderful news, it’s great for the community.”

“I’m very pleased the new council has backed this in with a significant capital investment as well, and that’s certainly a big win in contrast with the decision of previous councillors.”

The Surf Coast Aquatic and Leisure Centre Action Group has been leading the community campaign for the facility, and spokesperson Colin Fowler welcomed the new funding.

“This was the best outcome to get the aquatic and wellness facility up and running,” Mr Fowler said.

“We are pleased that the council have been successful and look forward to working with them during the design process.”

He said the centre’s $39.25 million price tag was an estimate, and the design process could produce a more accurate and lower cost.