IT’S A PROMISE: Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel and Member for Mildura Peter Crisp following the State Coalition’s election commitment of $10million for the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct.

By VINNIE RODI

THE pressure is mounting on the Andrews Labor Government to make a financial commitment to Mildura Rural City Council’s Mildura Future Ready (MFR) Plan, with the State Opposition committing $10million to the $36.5million Mildura South Regional Sports Precinct (MSRSP) last Sunday.

The funding will be made available should the Liberals-Nationals win office in November.

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp made the election pledge alongside Nationals Party leader Peter Walsh and Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan, and stressed that the Coalition’s contribution would be used to develop two irrigated playing ovals at the precinct, while contributing to a pavilion that includes seating, change rooms, officials’ rooms and multi-purpose function spaces.

The State Coalition’s election commitment follows $10million in funding announced by Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad two weeks ago, which is being used to progress the MSRSP’s $16million first stage.

“This is going to be an exciting centre that our whole community can use and be proud of, and it’s going to be a great facility for our local sports stars, young and old, for years to come,” Mr Crisp said.

Mr Crisp also called on the Andrews Labor Government to recognise the MSRSP as a priority project for Mildura and match The Nationals’ $10million commitment.

“Labor hasn’t given any sort of commitment to Mildura on this project or on any of our region’s other priorities – and that’s in very stark contrast to myself and Andrew Broad who have now secured $20million for our community,” he said.

“They’ve totally avoided any commitment to the level crossing upgrades that are absolutely critical if we are to return a passenger train to Mildura. Again, in contrast, I announced The Nationals’ $80million commitment for these works in April.”

Minister for Regional Development, Jaala Pulford, however, said that she didn’t put much stock in The Nationals’ promises:
“The Nationals have promised $10million towards a $19million project (Council is seeking $19million in State funding to construct both the MSRSP, and the first stage of the Mildura Motorsport Community Precinct), but I suspect Mildura residents know that a promise from The Nationals isn’t worth much given their appalling history with the closure of the train line and hospital privatisation.

“Labor will be announcing our plans for the region and for the whole of the State in due course. We are well aware of this project and other local priorities.”

Minister for Sport, John Eren, said the Andrews Labor Government is investing to ensure more people can play the sports they love close to home, with Mildura no exception.

He said the Labor Government has already delivered a new netball court with lights at Kenny Park, built female change rooms at the Old Aerodrome Sporting Complex, and delivered funding to develop Council’s regional recreation strategy.

“Funding for the Mildura South Regional Sports Precinct project will be considered as part of the normal budget process, and our ongoing work to improve sports facilities across the State,” Minister Eren said.

“There is one side of politics that gets things done and builds what our State needs – and there’s another that did nothing when they had the chance.”

The $36.5million MSRSP, earmarked for the corner of Sixteenth Street and Deakin Avenue, is one of four priority projects listed under Council’s MFR Plan, and once fully constructed will include a six-court indoor stadium, squash courts, a sports administration hub, change rooms, function rooms, café and alfresco area and two outdoor sporting fields – one of which will become a premier oval capable of hosting regional, State and national events.

The $16million first stage of the project, which incorporates $6million in Council funds, will focus on the indoor stadium component of the precinct, and at this stage includes at least four indoor courts, change rooms and a café/kiosk, with a 3000-seat capacity for conventions, performances and other functions planned for the future.

However, Council is yet to reveal the full scope of Stage 1 works, with attempts still being made to secure additional funding.

Council is currently awaiting the outcome of a live application to the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund, while Councillors this week voted to apply for $3million in funding through the State’s Better Indoor Stadiums Fund (see Page 12).

A Council spokesperson this week said that while Council welcomes Sunday’s announcement from Mr Crisp, they acknowledged the commitment is subject to the outcome of the upcoming State election.

“Council will continue to consider the various potential funding scenarios in our planning process for the project,” a Council spokesperson said. “Whilst the recent Commonwealth funding commitment of $10million will enable us to develop Stage One of the precinct, the extent of inclusions for this stage will be subject to the market and the amount of confirmed funding at the time of going to tender.

“This approach will be consistent throughout the project whereby Council will be endeavouring to achieve the maximum development possible at any given stage.”

Mr Crisp meanwhile urged Council to work with stakeholders and user groups to achieve additional funding for the sporting precinct.

Volleyball Victoria and Sunraysia Volleyball Inc. have already committed $500,000 towards construction of a beach volleyball component at the site.