Pambula squash courts project in turmoil

Community members want the project to go ahead.

Community members want the project to go ahead.

The proposed Pambula squash courts project has copped another setback at the hands of the Bega Valley Shire Council, throwing the project into turmoil.

A rescission motion lodged by Mayor Bill Taylor has torn down a motion passed at council’s March 26 meeting that would have allowed the project to proceed but now it stalls again while the council waits for a report on the Pambula Sporting Complex Masterplan.

Meanwhile a $90,000 state government grant for the project, secured by the Rotary Club of Pambula stands to be lost if it is not taken up by the end of next month.

The News Weekly is aware that, as of yesterday, concerted attempts involving council’s general manager and members of the Merimbula Squash Club and Rotary were being made to try and salvage the project which could include changes to a key aspect of the design – the removable walls. 

The salvage bid came on top of a fiery exchange between a member of Rotary and chairman of Sapphire Aquatic Limited (SAL) and a Bega Valley Shire councillor.

Pambula Rotarian and a major driver of the project Daryl Dobson said:”I do hope the council will re-investigate this matter as all the business studies and plans were done over 2½ years ago and have been submitted to council. It is not introducing a new sport to the Merimbula area, it would be just replacing the Main Street squash courts housed in the council building. Council intends to demolish the building and then sell the land off with the community not seeing any of these funds.”

Following the success of his rescission motion at council’s April 16 meeting, Cr Taylor,  with the support of  Cr Britten, moved a motion, “That council consider construction of sporting facilities, including squash courts at Pambula, after receiving a report on the Pambula Sporting Complex Masterplan (including an asset management plan) in the terms of council resolution of May 1, 2012.”

The motion was put and carried. In favour were: Crs Taylor, Britten, Mawhinney, Seckold and Greens Cr Hughes. Against: Crs Fitzpatrick, Allen, Tapscott and McBain.

Prior to the council debate Matt Fanning, of the Merimbula Squash Club, addressed the council and expressed the club’s frustration at the difficulties it had encountered as it endeavoured to gain council approval for the project.

“What we don’t understand is the yes – no and to-ing and fro-ing that has plagued this project. It is causing growing frustration, as well as some anger and embarrassment.”

He said that since the council put the club on notice that it would have to vacate the Merimbula Main Street premises, the club had been working towards the development of the new courts ideally to integrate with and complement the Pambula Aquatic Centre.

Mr Fanning spelt out the benefits of the combined facilities. “It seems there is broad acceptance of the benefits of cohabitation – extra revenue, multi-purpose facility, proximity to Lumen Christi College and none of that is in dispute.”

Mr Fanning said that with or without the removable walls, the courts would be open for a number of uses such as table tennis, aerobics, dance classes etc.

“If there is general acceptance of the merits of the project then why the hold-ups,” he asked.

He said there was significant funding for the project already in hand “and what of the funds from the expected sale of the old library and squash courts building,” he asked. 

Mr Fanning said consideration of the Pambula squash court development had been given in the overall Masterplan flagged in May 2012. Council’s promises had not been realised, he said.

Mr Fanning said that Rotary on behalf of the squash club had secured $90,000 in state funding. It had already had its date for receipt extended four times to cope with council delays. “If we renege on it this time, then not only will it be lost but the next time we apply there will be scepticism about our bone fides.”

Mr Fanning said that the council had “effectively promised three years ago to support the project”. 

“We ask that council honours that promise. We don’t deserve to wait around in limbo any longer.”

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