SOUTHERN PENINSULA AQUATIC CENTRE

This package was broadcast on Radio Port Phillip in May, 2012. It was also submitted for assessment at Monash University.

 

Script: Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre

PRESENTER: The Mornington Peninsula is more divided than ever before over the long-running proposal for an aquatic centre in Rosebud. 

Various ratepayer and environment groups have spoken out for years on a location for the complex, as well as its financial and environmental impacts on the community.

The state government has issued approval for the complex, contingent on a list of criteria, including evidence widespread community support.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire, however, has decided not to conduct community consultation.

Yet Cr Tim Rodgers and the former Mayor Cr Graeme Pittock hosted a public meeting on the subject last Friday night, independent of the Shire.

Toni Brient with the story.

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SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: The chilly air and enticing Friday night pub scene did not deter a crowd in excess of 300, filling Rosebud Memorial Hall almost to capacity.

Attendees carried signs and placards, some supporting and others opposing the controversial development they’d come to discuss.

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

GRAEME PITTOCK: Righto, we might as well get started.  Can you hear me up the back? On the way here, my son’s helping me out tonight, and his mate drove him down here, and I said I’d “be there just after you,” and he said, “Where are you going?” I said “I’ve got to get a guillotine from the office,” and he said “Is it going to be that serious?”

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: The Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre has been on the local agenda for almost 20 years.

Opinion throughout the community is undoubtedly divided. 

 There have been changing levels of support for and opposition of the complex, largely reflecting pertinent scientific and economic research.

It is this community support that the future of the complex may hinge on.

The Environment Minister, state Liberal MP Peter Ryan, has given the shire a list of criteria to fill as a prerequisite to planning approval for the aquatic centre.

VOICEOVER: Prior to considering an application for the development of the site for the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre, further information is required including…evidence of broad-based community support for the location of the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre at the proposed site.

The shire, however, has decided not to undergo a community consultation.

Cr Pittock says this is what pushed him and Cr Rodgers to facilitate the public meeting.

GRAEME PITTOCK: What we want is rational submissions.  There’s no questions.  We just want to hear what you all think, the community.  And then we’ll make our judgments from there.  The other councilors here, they’ll make their judgments.

TONI BRIENT: Cr Rodgers, in his opening address, reiterated the opinions of residents were the most important.

TIM RODGERS:  It’s an important project.  It’s a project that the community need to understand.  The community need to have their say.  On the 19th of March at our special, special council meeting, where we dealt with the issue of the Rosebud aquatic centre, I put up a motion that we do community consultation.   I put that motion up, I said the community need to have their say, in accordance with the Minister’s letter, that says prior to considering an application for development  for the site of the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre, further information is required, including evidence-based broad community support for the location of the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre at the proposed site.  So, based on that, and talking to DSE they said, “The Minister’s obviously saying, ‘Do community consultation’”.  When it went to a vote at council, we lost that vote 6-5.  The council said, “No, we don’t want to   do community consultation”.  So, Graeme and I thought we’ll do it ourselves.  Let’s just do it.

SOUND: CROWD APPLAUSE

TONI BRIENT: But, many disapproved of Cr Rodgers’ and Cr Pittock’s actions.

Among those was Cr David Gibb, who was not present at the meeting, but requested Cr Pittock read aloud his letter of apology.

GRAME PITTOCK: I regret that I am not able to join you at the meeting tonight. The meeting has been organised in my ward without my knowledge when the organisers knew I would be away.

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: Local resident Esther Reevens thought the meeting was unnecessary and uncalled for.

ESTHER REEVENS: Three council meetings have moved motions in favour of the SPA; firstly, for it to be on the foreshore; secondly to proceed to design; and recently to include the Memorial Hall in the designs.  How many times do we have to discuss this issue?

(SOUND: CROWD NOISE)

In conclusion, I would like to say how disappointed I am in the behaviour of the two councilors that are holding this meeting tonight. 

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: According to Steve Williams, if there was no need for a further discussion, the event wouldn’t have drawn such a crowd.

STEVE WILLIAMS: I’ve heard some people say tonight that these guys have acted really bad by calling a meeting.  Well, if it’s such a bad thing and there’s so many people here that want to have a say, clearly, it’s not resolved, and there’s a lot more to be said.

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: Despite the large number of locals present, there were notable absentees from government. 

Only two councilors aside from the organisers were present, and only one representative from the Federal and State tiers.

Nepean Liberal state MP Martin Dixon highlighted the aquatic centre as an election promise to his constituents in his written apology, read out by Cr Rodgers.

CR TIM RODGERS: I made an election commitment to gain coastal consent from the Minster for the Environment for an aquatic centre to be built on the Rosebud foreshore.  I have delivered on my promise.  It is now important for the residents to have their say as part of the planning process.

TONI BRIENT: Flinders Liberal federal MP Greg Hunt noted in his own apology, read out by Cr Pittock, that the complex was now a solely a council concern.

GRAEME PITTOCK: I support the pool, and would be more than happy to support the council plans as they currently stand.  It is matter for council as to where the pool goes.

TONI BRIENT: But not everyone agreed with that.

JOHAN SCHEFFER: Ladies and gentlemen it is not.  It is prescribed by the law, and the Minister must make a determination.

TONI BRIENT: State Labor MP Johan Scheffer holds the seat of Eastern Victoria in the Upper House.

He reminded residents that the location of the aquatic centre still needed state government approval before anything could go ahead.

JOHAN SCHEFFER: It’s very clear in the Coastal Management Strategy that the use of coastal crown land for the aquatic centre is inconsistent with the  Victorian coastal strategy.  The strategy discourages non-coastal dependent development and so the aquatic centre – according to this document, my reading of the document – is not a coastal-dependent use.  And there are a couple of criteria and these are in the Minister’s letter. 

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

In that letter that you will have seen, from the Minister, he is required to answer the question, ‘Is there a demonstrated need for it to be sited on the coast?’  and that it requires a coastal location function.

And it says examples are boat ramps.  You can’t not have a boat ramp on the coast.

The question is is a pool essentially coastal-related? They’re all over the country.  So that’s the issue.

TONI BRIENT: Mr Scheffer told the meeting he asked the state Environment Minister MP Ryan Smith in Parliament in March if he’d ‘conformed’ to those criteria, but had received no response.

JOHAN SCHEFFER: You can bet on it, I’ll be pursuing it.

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: The discussion soon turned even more political, with many residents pointing to the influence of the aquatic centre on upcoming council elections, which are to take place in October.

 Esther Reevens.

ESTHER REEVENS: They have used these council meetings as a launch of their election campaigns, bowing to the loud minority that occupy these meetings. Well, I don’t want a council that listens only to that loud minority. I want one that listens to the wider community, the silent majority, the majority that wants a SPA on the Rosebud foreshore.

TONI BRIENT: Steve Williams.

STEVE WILLIAMS: Some councilors can say that it’s up to the Shire about where it’s going to go.  But these guys are elected by us as the ratepayers to do that job.

TONI BRIENT: Friends of Rosebud Beach and Foreshore President Eunice Cain.

EUNICE CAIN: The current council has almost completed its term of office.  It seems to me that it is severely limiting on a future council to commit to this huge infrastructure project and the debt that it would occur.  This decision should be deferred until after the election of a new council.

SOUND: CROWD NOISE

TONI BRIENT: Cr Pittock said he intends to put the outcome of the meeting to council, and various politicians.

GRAEME PITTOCK: The results of tonight, we’re recording every submission, they’ll be sent to the Minister, to Greg Hunt, and Martin Dixon.  We’ll also have urgent business at the first available council meeting, and we’ll make a report of it – as long as the other councilors let us do it, they may or may not.

TONI BRIENT: He gauged public opinion at the meeting to be roughly 60% against locating the complex on the foreshore.  He also agrees with residents that the issue will have an impact on council elections.

It remains to be seen whether submissions from the meeting will be accepted as public consultation by the Minister.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire declined to comment on the meeting.

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PRESENTER: Toni Brient with that report