Friday, July 1, 2022

Time to have your say – pool closure

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Kirstin Nicholson, The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

The proposed outdoor integrated program pool and water park area in Apex Park, Cohuna.
Image: The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

Gannawarra Shire residents are urged to attend the community sessions hosted by Gannawarra Shire Council (GSC) next week to ensure they have their say on the future of local pools.

The community engagement sessions give residents the opportunity to have their say on GSC’s Draft Gannawarra Aquatic Strategy (DGAS). Council has already met with swimming pool management committees, progress/development associations, and interested parties, and will now meet with residents.

The draft strategy proposes the closure of Cohuna’s swimming pool which will be replaced with a free form billabong with casual fitness/lap swimming, a water splash park, and a café and amenities building. The proposed new swimming precinct will be located in Apex Park between the playground and caravan park, adjacent to the Gunbower Creek.

If built, the swimming precinct will occupy the remaining open parkland in Apex Park, leaving one small patch near the beach for recreation.

Leitchville’s swimming pool is earmarked for closure, with no alternative offered.

The main aquatic facility to service the shire’s residents will be built in Kerang beside the library and will include an indoor 25m x 6 lane program/warm water pool, toddler pool/leisure water, dry health and wellness area and support amenities. This is in addition to its existing outdoor facilities.

Community discussion has centred on the concern for the safety of the town’s youth who will seek out local alternative swimming locations such as creeks and channels, lack of leisure opportunities (including the water slide), lack of, or reduction of, swimming lessons and other organised aquatic-based lessons, and the cost of travelling to other towns or shires to access aquatic facilities.

The proposed Cohuna aquatic precinct resembles something found in a holiday resort which is great if your target audience is tourists. Perhaps it is. But, what about the locals who live here and pay their rates? Surely, they deserve to be the focus of the council’s attention.

The proposed vision of GSC is to ‘Provide sustainable and accessible aquatic and leisure facilities that brings Gannawarra residents together to enjoy health and wellbeing, education and leisure experiences.’ One of its objectives is for ‘Provision of accessible, affordable and inclusive facilities that support participation opportunities and key program needs.’ Whether the DGAS will do that remains to be seen.

It is important to keep in mind that this project will be the sole aquatic facility for Cohuna and district for years to come, so if you don’t think this issue concerns you, consider how this will impact you in 10, 20 or 30 years. You are encouraged to have your say too.

As a resident and ratepayer, ask yourself these questions is this what I want? Is this what I need? Will this facility service my needs into the future? Is this best for my community?

Residents who oppose the proposal or would like further clarification are urged to attend the community sessions. Despite the term ‘Community drop in pop up sessions’ being used on its website, GSC appears to be making this difficult by opening their arms with community consultation sessions, but limiting opportunity and numbers. Residents wishing to attend must book their spot, and the sessions are in 30-minute blocks with limited numbers at each session.

Sessions are available online and in person locally:

  • Monday, June 20 from 3pm to 5pm (online).
  • Tuesday, June 21 from 10am to 12pm (online).
  • Thursday, June 23 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at the Cohuna Community Meeting Room.
  • Friday, June 24 from 11am to 12pm at the Leitchville Swimming Pool.

Spots can be booked by phoning Gannawarra Shire Council on 5450 9333, emailing swimmingpools@gsc.vic.gov.au or using the online booking form on the GSC website.

Residents will also have the opportunity to provide feedback via a survey that is scheduled for June and July.

Mayor Charlie Gillingham said, “We have heard the passion throughout the community for their local outdoor swimming pools and the importance our residents place on these facilities, whilst we have also heard of the growing need for all year round warm water to support learn to swim programs for the Gannawarra’s young people and to support low impact exercise.”

The question is, have they listened?

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 16 June 2022

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 16 June 2022.

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