By VINNIE RODI
MILDURA Rural City Councillor Glenn Milne, PICTURED, has vowed to fight for the best version of the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP) possible following Council’s decision to seek Federal funding for the project’s $16million first stage.
This is despite voting against endorsing an application to the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) to develop the MSRSP’s first stage at Council’s December 14 meeting.
The MSRSP is one of four projects listed as part of Council’s Mildura Future Ready (MFR) initiative, with other projects including the Mildura Motorsports and Community Precinct, the return of Mildura’s passenger rail and stage two of the Mildura Riverfront Redevelopment.
Many Councillors, including Crs Simon Clemence and Ali Cupper, hailed the application as the first step toward seeing MFR achieve its goal of improving the region’s social well-being.
Crs Milne, Max Thorburn and Greg Brown were the only Councillors to vote against the motion, with Cr Milne saying on the night that he had concerns about re-scoping the indoor sporting precinct to “a part build”, and the estimated $700,000 in depreciation the MSRSP would attract each year.
Originally a $36.5m build, the MSRSP was redesigned to become a staged project to accommodate BBRF parameters, where a maximum of $10m is available to individual projects.
Stage One of the MSRSP was re-scoped to include four indoor courts, change rooms, café/kiosk, reception area, public amenities, pouring of the first floor slab, and completion of a portion of the precinct’s external works and services.
The remaining $6m for the project will be provided by Council through financial reserves and, if necessary, borrowings.
Cr Milne this week said that his decision to vote against the proposal was not indicative of a lack of support, or a change of heart, regarding the MFR initiative, saying he still supported the concept, and all four projects listed.
“MFR was put to Council as a complete package where the MSRSP and riverfront were added to the Mildura motorsports complex – being where the highest number of jobs are – with the expectation that we would go to war to achieve this package,” he said.
“What was presented last Thursday was a part build of a part section of a package, the financial input from Council was greater than planned ($1.4m more), the building and complex as presented under this plan would be incomplete and require another $16m to complete, with possibly $8m from Council.
“The cost of borrowing, and the very real cost of depreciation that Council must fund, will be around $700,000 a year over 20 years.
“I said on the night that it was an extremely difficult decision to make to not support the application, because I really want to see this facility become a reality.
“I could have put my head in the sand and voted in support of the motion knowing that it would get over the line, but I would not have been fulfilling my duty as a Councillor to do that.
“As a Councillor I understand that it’s a Council decision, and now it’s time to work hard and get the best value for dollar. As sports portfolio Councillor I will be seeking a better design for the MSRSP that meets the needs of all sports, and also meets the budget.
“I believe this can be done with the $16m, should Council prove successful in its application for Federal funding.”
Cr Milne said that in “a perfect world” Councillors would have been given the opportunity to choose which of the MFR projects was put forward for BBRF funding this year.
“Councillors were never offered the opportunity to make a decision, which means at a Council meeting to nominate one project that should be given priority and debate each project’s merits etc.,” he said. “I believe that debate should have happened along with some restructuring of how each project could be achieved through part builds.”
Cr Milne believes Council may have also missed an opportunity by not looking to re-scope the first stage of the Mildura Motorsports and Community Precinct to accommodate this year’s BBRF funding round.
Council will instead aim to achieve Federal funding for the Motorsports Precinct during the 2018 BBRF funding round, allowing time to attract private investment to the project.
“The potential for the Mildura Motorsports and Community Precinct is huge,” he said. “Look at what is happening in South Australia with the $100m Tailem Bend racetrack.
“They’re building accommodation at the track, money is being investing in the township left, right and centre.
“Our community needs to understand that it’s not just about motorsport and people going to events at a race track. What motorsport brings is huge investment in the township in housing, employment etc.”