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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Travelling the Wathaurong Way?

Geelong City Hall
On 24 September, the City of Greater Geelong council decided to fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian flag over City Hall.

This decision follows the state government's decision in May to rename the 4.5m arterial link (formerly known as '4C') in Armstrong Creek Baanip Boulevard. The name honours local Aboriginal man Willem Baanip, a Wathaurong man who was born in 1836 near what is now Market Square,  lived on the Duneed Aboriginal Land Reserve near to the current Ghazeepore Road and died in 1885. The newly named road will link the Geelong Ring Road and the Surf Coast Highway. VicRoads expects to start work on the new road in late 2013 and finish it in 2016.

Many communities are taking similar actions to recognise their Aboriginal heritage; and this is happening as Australia prepares for a referendum on a proposal to recognise Australia’s Aboriginal peoples formally in the country’s Constitution.

A local act of recognition
Drysdale and Clifton Springs continue to be enriched by the culture of today’s Wathaurong people, which goes back thousands of years. In the lead-up to the Constitutional Recognition referendum, we could consider making our own formal recognition of the area’s Aboriginal people and heritage. One suggestion made to DCSCA is that we ask people on the north Bellarine how they would feel about renaming the Portarlington Road as Wathaurong Way.

Communities often name roads after local dynasties - Drysdale and Clifton Springs have several examples. How appropriate, then, to name Portarlington Road after the area’s longest-standing ‘dynasty’ – the Wathaurong people. To make the re-naming a real act of community recognition, it needs support from across the community. DCSCA invites local people to start conversations in the area about the proposal and to tell us your views.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A new sports precinct - a new approach?

Local sports clubs have told DCSCA that they can’t cope with the continuing expansion of demand for their facilities and are frustrated at the lack of progress on the long-awaited Regional Sports Precinct planned for Drysdale.
Theyu argues that existing sports facilities were never meant to serve the expanding local population and their inadequacy affects not just Drysdale & Clifton Springs but the whole of the North Bellarine.

Making the case
In response, DCSCA convened a meeting on September 16 of all local sports clubs, together with local councillor Rod Macdonald and relevant officers from the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG). Cr Macdonald and the officers said that while CoGG has adopted a Master Plan for the $40m precinct in 2011, the project needed state government funds to proceed.

CoGG's 2011 Master Plan for the proposed Sports Precinct shares the cost between the council and the state government, so when the state government refused to provide its share of the funding, the project had to be postponed indefinitely. Consequently, everyone at the September 16 meeting agreed that during the November 2014 state elections, each club and club member should ask each local candidate what they would do, if elected, to make the planned Sports Precinct a reality.

Meanwhile, clubs and individuals should ask local councillors and state & federal MPs to convince the state government to pay its share of the cost of the Sports Precinct. Here are their contact details:
·    Cr Rod Macdonald, Cheetham ward:
·    Cr Lindsay Ellis, Coryule ward:
·    Ms Lisa Neville, MP for Bellarine (state parliament):

·    Mr Richard Marles, MP for Corio (federal parliament):

What? No Plan B?!
Faced with the state government's refusal to pay its share of the cost of the Sports Precinct, CoGG has no '(Master) Plan B' and shows no sign of even looking for one. As a result, people on the North Bellarine must cope indefinitely as local population growth - planned, of course, by CoGG - renders local sports facilities increasingly inadequate.

Rather than wishing and hoping that a future state government will provide the cash for a Sports Precinct in Drysdale, CoGG should be planning and dreaming of a different model for the project that would enable it to proceed. For example, instead of relying exclusively on public money to pay for the Precinct, CoGG could examine ways to mix various forms of public money with various forms of private money.

One approach would be to create a Public Trust to build, maintain and manage the Sports Precinct. The Trust would invite investment by public financial institutions (e.g. pension and superannuation funds), private financial institutions (e.g. banks) and individuals.

As a community facility, the Precinct shouldn't be run purely as a profit-making business at the expense of accessibility. Instead, investors would receive an annual dividend, only after the annual costs of building, maintaining and managing the Precinct (including contributing to a contingency fund for emergencies) were paid; and the legal documents establishing the Public Trust could include clauses to limit the dividend while retaining its attractiveness.

More work needed!
Schemes featuring public-private collaboration have had very chequered results, both here and elsewhere. Therefore, a lot of work will be needed to avoid their worst aspects, such as private investors profiting quickly from a scheme and then withdrawing, leaving the public sector to deal with long-term management and maintenance costs. 

Such a Public Trust is but one suggestion to overcome inadequate funding and it may be an inappropriate for the area. However, its underlying assumption will remain valid - the North Bellarine needs a Regional Sports Precinct, it is the council's responsibility to provide it and the council should actively seek ways to overcome the current stalemate.