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    Cr Di Bell is concerned about ambiguity in costing a sporting precinct project.

Horsham council starts $17m hunt for sporting precinct


Municipal endorsement has placed Horsham’s flagship sporting precinct a step closer to undergoing a multi-million-dollar overhaul.

Horsham Rural City Council has given a tick of approval to a City Oval and Sawyer Park Concept Plan, opening the door for an exploration into government funding opportunities.

The overhaul, to occur in stages and designed to lift ageing precinct assets to modern standards and open new opportunities, comes with an overall price tag of more than $17-million.

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The council agreed after spirited debate, much of it surrounding how the council would pay for the project, at a monthly meeting on Monday to continue to pursue the development as a priority project.

Cr Di Bell in particular was concerned about ambiguity in costing the project, costs falling back on ratepayers via projected loans and where the project sat with overall municipal priorities based on a requirement of the Local Government Act to be fair and equitable.

Many of the buildings, layout and assets in use at Horsham City Oval date back several decades and many fall short of being compliant with modern community-asset requirements.

The precinct is also based on the needs of a different era in sport and community activity.

Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline said Monday night’s decision meant the project could progress to a full design stage that involved seeking funding from state and federal governments.

“It must be done in stages over a period of years – it would be impossible to do it all in one hit – and will all be dependent on the level of funding we can attract,” she said.

“There was strong debate surrounding what the financial implications might be for ratepayers. The reality is that until we explore what funding we can get we will be unable to determine the level of ratepayer commitment.

“But every step of the way, the council will review its options to determine the best way to proceed. This is not a funding commitment for ratepayers – it is an endorsement of a concept plan and authorisation to start seeking funding to take it to the next level.

“When we know what funding opportunities are available we will be able to present a report to the community and debate further in council what we need to do to take the project to completion.”

Cr Gulline said development in the precinct was a necessity.

“The problem is we have buildings, such as the grandstand and pavilion that aren’t compliant. Netball facilities fall short of being up to scratch and general facilities supporting players and spectators are far from good enough,” she said.

“We are a regional city and must continue to raise the standard of our assets so our residents are playing at and enjoying top-class facilities. 

“This also gives us capacity to bring in higher levels of competition to the community, which is both financially and economically beneficial to Horsham.

“We saw this with volleyball championships at the weekend, involving 30 teams from across the state, using three different facilities. The amount of money they put into the community would have been significant.

“The better facilities we get, the more people we can cater for when this community really starts to get buzzing. 

“From my experience, when we raise the standard of facilities, we raise the standard generally. This involves everything from performing arts, health and education to sport. Anything we can do to raise standards can only be to the benefit and betterment of our community.”

The city oval and Sawyer Park project is the second stage of the City to River Masterplan, a 20-year plan to enhance and activate the Wimmera River Precinct and its link to Horsham’s Central Activity District.

Major changes in the plan include widening Horsham City Oval playing arena, replacing a grandstand, community sports pavilion and other buildings and developing assets that promote integration with events at adjacent Sawyer Park.

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!