Kangaroo Flat residents fight to save centre

COUNCIL WRAP: Councillors debate big ticket items

AS IT HAPPENED: Live updates from the City of Greater Bendigo meeting

RESIDENTS are calling on the City of Greater Bendigo to save the current Kangaroo Flat leisure centre from demolition. 

The council plans to demolish the existing centre to make way for the $30 million aquatic facility, which was approved by councillors tonight. 

A 740-signature strong petition calling on its retention was tabled at the council meeting, with residents arguing the facility is sound, well-utilised and worth saving. 

Save the Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre chairman Don McKinnon is hopeful council will further consult with residents after approving plans for the $30 million Kangaroo Flat Aquatic and Leisure Centre at this week's meeting. 

Mr McKinnon was one of several residents who attended the council meeting and queried council on the matter. 

He said the community had fought to get a hall in Kangaroo Flat 30 years ago, and the new aquatic centre should be built elsewhere to protect the hall from demolition. 

"We are not against the new pool - but anyone with common sense would see this is a sound building, servicing the community so why should it be pulled down?" he said. 

Council director Stan Liacos said the proposal - and demolition plans - came after 18 months of detailed planning. 

But Crs Helen Leach, Elise Chapman and Peter Cox agreed the existing centre should be saved. 

"This building is 30 years old and cost half a million dollars at the time, which was raised by the residents," Cr Cox said. 

In supporting the petition, Councillor Helen Leach said it made perfect sense to retain the purpose-built facility. 

"Do we have the right to deny the residents of this facility?" she said. 

"They love this hall, it's theirs, and it just needs a little TLC." 

Cr Elise Chapman backed her comments, saying the hall could definitely be retained.

"It is disgraceful that no alternative design has been considered and councillors have not had the chance to save the current facility," she said. 

Their comments came as councillors approved plans for the $30 million Kangaroo Flat Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

The proposal requires upwards of $10 million in further funding to go ahead and Cr Helen Leach said council should wait until all funds were secured before approving the plans.

But in moving the motion, Cr Rod Fyffe said tabling plans would help convince prospective funders. 

"This is what the community wants," he said. 

"We need to approve this so people know we are fair dinkum and we can move forward."

Councillor James Williams also supported the proposal, saying it was part of the long-term strategic council plan.

But Cr Cox said while it was an excellent project, Bendigo could not afford it. 

He said if approved, the centre would drain resources from other Bendigo projects and leave little money for the future. 

"I believe it's about responsible financial management and realising we do not need to approve this proposal tonight," Cr Cox said. 

Chief executive Craig Niemann confirmed that three of the region's pools will be shut down if the $30 million centre goes ahead.

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