Sarah Henderson - seen here campaigning during the 2019 federal election - has committed $20 million specifically for a 50-metre pool. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

Splash for cash: questions arise about funds for Torquay pool

February 13, 2020 BY

THE proposed pool for Torquay has been drawn into the latest developments in the so-called “sports rorts” investigation, with the project receiving more than an eighth of the total $150 million from the Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream (FFWSS) program.

Announcing the FFWSS in March last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the “principal objective” of the program was to “ensure that there are changing facilities and other facilities to support more girls and women’s participation in sport all around the country”.

Guidelines for the FFWSS have never been released, and media reports last week revealed that $120 million from the program went towards 14 pools, all in seats held by the Coalition before the election.

Of this, $30 million was slated for the seat of Corangamite, then held by Liberal MP Sarah Henderson (who lost the seat to Labor’s Libby Coker but returned as a Victorian Senator) – $20 million for a 50-metre pool in Torquay, and $10 million for a pool on the north Bellarine.

The Liberal commitment was revealed three days after the federal election date was officially confirmed and four months after Ms Coker pledged $15.3 million towards a Torquay aquatic centre with a 25-metre pool during her successful campaign to win the ultra-marginal seat.

The state government has also committed $10 million to the project.

This is the third federal funding program to have the merits of its awarding process to be called into question since the election, following the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Program (RJIP) and the Community Sports and Infrastructure Program (CSIF).

In a statement issued last week, Senator Henderson said she was “appalled” about “the ongoing campaign to undermine the Morrison Government’s commitment” to the Torquay pool.

She declined to go into specifics about the various projects under the three programs that received funding in Corangamite while she was the electorate’s federal member.

“No matter the funding opportunity, I have worked extremely hard without fear or favour to fight and deliver for Corangamite.”

The Surf Coast Shire council resolved in January to start its fifth feasibility study on a Torquay aquatic centre, despite the fears of some councillors about the financial implications.

Senator Henderson continues to criticise the council for its approach to the issue.

“I say to the Surf Coast Shire councillors who oppose this development that you should resign and let someone else do the job,” she said.

“The council has simply not done its homework and, as a result, Surf Coast residents are paying the price.”

Surf Coast Shire chief executive officer Keith Baillie said undertaking a feasibility study was a prudent step.

“Whether to proceed with such a substantial project is a significant decision for Council.”