As reported in the Wombat Post last week, the Daylesford Aquatic and Civic Plaza Precinct project has been granted $500,000 through the State Government’s Regional Infrastructure Fund.

The Hepburn Shire Mayor, Cr Licia Kokocinski, said the project will create a new Civic Plaza within the grounds of the swimming pool precinct, providing an important new community greenspace, and will deliver new family friendly facilities and disability compliance.

The project cost is estimated at $1,532,992, and will be funded through:

  • $200,000 from Sport and Recreation Victoria
  • $500,000 from Rural Development Victoria (announced last week)
  • $832,992 from Council

Construction is expected to occur between September 2020 to April 2021.

Critical community response

Response from the community has been less than enthusiastic based on posts to social media platforms including the Hepburn Shire Facebook page.

The most common  response has been that this does not address the overwhelming desire in the community for a year-round, indoor, heated swimming pool. Many posts expressed resentment that money was being spent on an outdated facility that could only be used for three months of the year.

Mark Rak, the president of Daylesford Indoor Aquatic Centre (DIAC) has said that their committee is continuing its quest for an indoor pool.  The association, formed in 2017, has 400 local members.

Hepburn Shire 10-year Aquatics Strategy

In response to the criticism of the proposed pool redevelopment, Council has referred to its plan to develop a 10-year Aquatics Strategy for the Shire. It has applied for $30,000 from Sport and Recreation Victoria to be added to Council’s contribution of $50,000 to fund the strategy’s development.

The Aquatics Strategy will consider future options including the type of facility (indoor/outdoor) and examine the Shire’s needs and capacity.  It will be developed with community consultation and in the light of infrastructure and asset development for the entire Shire.

DIAC met with the Council and Sport and Recreation Victoria late in 2019 to discuss the proposed strategy.

“It was clear from the discussions that the three outdoor council pools in the shire were all around 50 years old and were inadequate for community needs going forward.  The proposed strategy is intended to review all aquatic needs including indoor and outdoor facilities,” said Mr Rak.

If funding is obtained, the review by an external, independent consultant is expected to take 6 to 9 months.

“DIAC has offered to work with the Strategic Review. We have completed a scoping study and we are finalising a business plan which we feel can inform the review. The recent announcement appears to in part pre-empt  the  Hepburn Aquatics Strategy and possibly jeopardise future funding of an indoor facility in Daylesford,” Mr Rak commented.

In commenting on the importance of swimming and aquatic facilities,  Cr Kate Redwood said

“It is pleasing to see how successful the free swim policy has been this last year. Council has been pleased by the increase in numbers using the Council pools and in particular how good it is for families to not have the cost of entry. The aquatic strategy for the Shire will recognise the importance of access to pools for young and old, and will look at what can be done to meet community expectations.”

Cr Redwood added that, “State funding for the Aquatic and Civic Plaza Precinct does not in any way change the commitment to the Aquatic Strategy for the Shire.”

For a different view of Daylesford’s swimming history see the article from the Daylesford and District Historical Society