Archive:   Kyneton Indoor Pool

Last Updated  21/6/09



See also Council Budget


Council Decision On Green Waste Charges Shows No Leadership On Environment And Sustainability

(2/4/09 - C)  Disappointment continues as Council decides free green waste disposal is too expensive

An opportunity to show leadership and empathy with community values went begging at the March 25 Council meeting when Macedon Ranges Council resolved to only allow residents to dispose of green waste free of charge for 3 months of the year.  And what months they are:  November, December, and May.  It seems the worst fire months when people try to keep their properties free of litter - January, February and March - aren't on Council's radar. 


The decision to only support residents for 3 months of the year was made after a motion by Cr. Henry McLaughlin to make green waste disposal permanently free of charge was defeated, apparently receiving support from only 3 councillors:  McLaughlin, Benson and Manning.


MRRA Says:


As we understand it, Council would lose some $30,000 in fees currently paid by residents by making the service free. On the other hand, Council apparently recoups more than that through sales of mulch made from the green waste provided by residents.  Wouldn't making it a fee-free service simply make it cost-neutral for Council?  There would be plenty of other benefits in doing it as well: free disposal would encourage residents to keep their properties tidy and reduce bushfire fuel, reduce smoke from burn-offs, and the more green waste Council receives, the more mulch it could sell. 


One explanation put forward for choosing May is that's when residents burn off (deciduous) leaves on Mt. Macedon, causing air pollution.  That's fair enough, but what about the air pollution caused by bushfire, and burning off litter accumulated over summer once the fire ban period is lifted?  If there is genuine concern for air pollution, we say embrace all elements of the problem, not just the easy ones.


* Odd, isn't it...  Here's a Council that appears to not be prepared to subsidise a service to the value of $30,000 to reduce impacts from bushfire and to reduce the Shire's environmental impacts from burn-offs - and make money from it too, but does seem prepared to subsidise from rates $250,000 - $500,000 annual loses racked up by indoor swimming pools. Or is the reason Council is baulking at green waste because with the Kyneton pool, it just wouldn't be able to afford anything else?


Kyneton Pool: Horse-trading, Muddled Thinking And Risk Taking Prevails

(9/3/09 - C)  Potential double disaster for ratepayers 


The Council meeting on 25th February and the mixed messages it sent left some stumped as to where our Councillors are coming from, and going to. 


What residents may not be aware of is that there are two major projects currently being considered by Council:  the Kyneton indoor pool, and new sporting facilities in Romsey, both multi-million dollar 'events'.  Thanks to decisions taken on the night, ratepayers may end up paying for both.


First up, a motion to forsake the pool and instead back an application for $2 million Federal funding for a new sports oval at Romsey received support from only 3 councillors: Rob Guthrie (South), Neil Manning (West) and Joan Donovan (East).  Interestingly, two east ward councillors (Joe Morabito and Henry McLaughlin) voted against putting Romsey first. 


Then came the big one.  The cobbled together motion where the application for $2 million Federal funding that Council had been about to submit for the Romsey sports oval was dumped in favour of an application for $5 million Federal funding for the Kyneton pool.  It seems recent and astonishing officer revelations that the Romsey application they had worked on had somehow been too shoddily prepared to submit were readily accepted because Councillors supported the motion to switch the funding applications unanimously.  If the Feds come across with $5 million, the pool will go ahead (regardless, apparently, of any remaining funding shortfalls which the community will presumably be left to pay for). 


Likewise, it was unanimous to also move the Romsey proposal forward by allocating $40,000 in the 2008/2009 budget and running with funding applications for Romsey in the next round of Federal funding, later this year. 


All of this, despite advice in a media release from Federal Labor member Steve Gibbons that Council is too late to get funding for the pool in the current round of Federal Funding, and should look to the next round (er, the same round the Romsey application has been moved to).


Then to top it all off, our Council voted to give the pool a planning permit!  What were they thinking...


MRRA Says:


Our reading of the situation goes something like this (hey, it's hard to be definite about something that's so superbly indefinite):

What were they thinking...


The word is that former Councillor Deb Dunn, former Councillor Noel Harvey and former Councillor Alan Todd are key movers and shakers in pushing for the pool.  Some might say strange bedfellows indeed.  Some might say, why?


Residents who don't support the pool - other than the initial opposition from 3 councillors which was later negated by them supporting the proposal and permit - didn't have any representation on the night.  We say, that's not what a lot of people expected when they voted for you.


This has been a massive 'ball-dropping' exercise, and an equally massive dashing of hopes that the election had brought change.


What oh what were they thinking... 


Change Of Venue For 25 February Council Meeting Which Will Decide Fate Of Kyneton Pool

(21/2/09 - C)  Sacred Heart College, Kyneton is the place to be but if you don't support it, we say tell your councillors beforehand 

Council's 25 February Council meeting was scheduled to be held at the Romsey Community Hub, but will now be held in the Kyneton Sacred Heart College Main Auditorium.


One of the items to be considered at this meeting will be a report on the proposed Kyneton Sports & Aquatic Centre Project – including the consideration of tenders for its construction. In view of the likely community interest in this matter this meeting will be held in the Sacred Heart College's Main Auditorium. The Kyneton Town Hall is unavailable for this meeting.


Interested residents are welcome to attend this public meeting, commencing at 7pm. Parking is available in the Staff & Visitors carpark (enter off High Street, Kyneton.)


The Notice Paper for this meeting will be available at the meeting (extra copies of the Kyneton Sports & Aquatic Centre Project report will be available) and or can be downloaded from Council's website ( as of 12 noon on Monday, 23 February 2009.


For further information contact Stephen Mahon, Manager Council & Customer Services on 5422 0352.


MRRA Says:


The word around the traps is that there seems to be some funny moves going on with pool costings, which somehow seem to be increasingly favourable to going ahead with the pool, and that some people seem hell-bent on getting this pool and be damned to everything and everyone else.  It would be interesting to know what these shrinking costs would buy.  MRRA understands that the pool as currently proposed is already a tad substandard, with only a metre walkway around it (or at least part of it) and not suitable for swimming competitions, not least because, er, there's nowhere to put the spectators.  If so, wouldn't that kill one of the main arguments for having it?


Talk is that some want the Federal government to come across with $5 million. For a pool?  Now?  In a time of world wide financial crisis, with so much of Victoria burnt to the ground and other areas drowning, with water supplies so low, with melting infrastructure, and climate change threatening our existence?  Wouldn't you think there might be just a few things more important for a government to spend time and money on these days than an overly expensive pool for the enjoyment of so few?  Ditto Council.  How could anyone look those poor buggers who have lost everything in the eye and tell them a pool is more important...


It strikes us as strange that the proposal is still being so driven. There's almost a whiff of desperation about it, not to mention... well, we won't go there at the moment. 


As we looked across some of the key enthusiasts - former councillor Noel Harvey, two of our new Councillors, a couple of council officers as well as some notable others - and then looked at the generosity and involvement of the State and Federal Labor governments (and at the facile expectations of more), we thought we could detect some commonality emerging.


Why so much intense Labor party interest / support? 


Then we had a cynical thought.  It could be a bit naughty but...  Getting the Kyneton pool wouldn't have anything to do with getting State Labor member for Ballarat East, Geoff Howard, re-elected in 2010, would it? 


You might remember that just before the 2006 election the State government generously provided, via Mr. Howard, a few million dollars' funding for a second pool in quick succession in the Shire - a generosity some at the time suggested may have broken the government's own funding rules.  It got Mr. Howard re-elected, so could something similar be happening again?


Surely not.  Surely Macedon Ranges' ratepayers' interests aren't being manipulated for personal / political gain, are they?  Getting a politician re-elected couldn't be anywhere near as important as protecting the long-term viability and sustainability of the Shire, could it? 


MRRA hears all sorts of stories, and one of them going around is that some councillors - remembering that we all elected these councillors to change the way things happen at Council - are thinking of doing a deal with those who want the pool.  We say whoa, stop right there! 


That's how previous Councils operated! That's why so many councillors were thrown out!  We voters haven't elected 'more of the same', have we?   We weren't wrong in thinking this new council would put broad community interests and 'long-term' first, were we?  Were we??? 


There shouldn't be any deals.   If there are political motivations driving the pool proposal, chances are they would be very dirty deals, serving very narrow interests.  Would our councillors really want to be seen to support that?  Make a decision before this issue renders Council completely impotent.  Move on.


There's an obvious solution to the 'pool problem'.  Council should set up a register and all those clamouring for the pool should sign it.  That way Council will know whose rates to increase to pay for it. Oh, and as for operating costs (the forgotten financial black hole in this debate) Council could stop subsidizing pool entry fees the way it does now (which all ratepayers pay for) and make those who use the pool/s (discount for pensioners, of course) cover the true costs of running a pool.  Job done: user pays, all round. Can't say fairer than that.  It might also avoid bankrupting the Shire, and it would leave some rates to spend on other things that benefit and improve other people and other parts of the Shire.


Back to the Council meeting. It's likely there won't be any shortage of people there thumping and even threatening Councillors to back the pool.  We hear it's not nice, so if your view is that the pool shouldn't go ahead but you can think of more pleasant ways to pass the evening than going to the council meeting, we strongly encourage you make your views known to Councillors before next Wednesday's meeting.  Click here for contact details. 


Psst...  As Crs. Henryka Benson and Roger Jukes have made no secret of their very strong support for the pool (both have an affiliation with the Kyneton Indoor Pool group), you might want to save time by ignoring 'the chaff' and going straight to 'the wheat' by working on the others!  So it's hey ho, hey ho, off to work you go...


Macedon Ranges Shire Gets $947,000 From Federal Govt

(19/11/08 - FG)  That's two pieces of good news: that we are getting it, and it doesn't look like it can be spent on the Kyneton pool

Macedon Ranges Shire's new council will have its work cut out making decisions about where this money can best be spent to deliver the most benefit to the wider community and to create some local jobs from those projects.  It seems that the money may not be spent on items that are already budgetted.  If so, that would mean the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute and the Kyneton Pool (and whatever else was funded in the last budget) wouldn't qualify to benefit from the Fed funding.


Auditor General Warns Councils To Rein In Spending:  Expenditures Exceed Revenue

(14/11/08 - C)  Not good news for those in Macedon Ranges who think it's OK to run Council deep into debt for the Kyneton pool

In a report tabled yesterday in State parliament, the Auditor General has urged Councils to be more careful with how they are managing their budgets and expenditure.  Click here to see Herald Sun article.  This surely is a timely warning for those who apparently want to 'create a splash' by supporting the Kyneton pool proposal, which will see Council borrowing millions of dollars and potentially bankrupting the Shire, or penalizing residents with prohibitive rate increases.  Isn't it time to look realistically at what's possible and what's not?  Seems some just don't get it....  You can access the report by going to


Is It A First?  A Controversial Council Budget Scraping Through On The Casting Vote Of The Mayor?

(16/7/08 - P)  Can we now say it really is Noel Harvey's pool?

Togetherness is a wonderful thing. 


Take the togetherness Macedon Ranges Councillors exhibit over the Kyneton pool, for example.  There's always a 5 to 4 divide.  The five who vote for it, and the four who vote against it. 


But at the meeting where Council made a decision about whether to adopt next year's budget, that togetherness slipped, and what emerged was... ownership.  


Cr. John Connor (who until now had voted consistently to move the Kyneton pool forward) was absent on the night Macedon Ranges Shire Council voted on its 2008/2009 budget.  That meant only 8 Councillors would be present.  That meant that if voting went along 'traditional' lines, the vote on the budget would be tied 4 to 4.  It would take a Mayoral casting vote to decide.  And that's exactly how it happened. 


Crs. Noel Harvey, Geoff Neil, Helen Relph and Henry Bleeck voted for adopting the budget which contains a $3 million loan, part payment for the Kyneton pool. 


Crs. Rob Guthrie, Sandra McGregor, John Letchford and Tom Gyorffy voted against adopting the budget with a $3 million loan, part payment for the Kyneton pool. 


So Mayor Noel Harvey cast the deciding vote - in favour of putting the Shire into deep debt to deliver the Kyneton pool.  What's more, we believe he said he was immensely proud of this budget - yep, the same one that starts the downhill financial slide for all residents of the Shire...


MRRA Says:


Actions can speak louder than words, don't you think? 


Even blind Freddy could pick what we are going to say next. 


Please don't reward this disgraceful performance by voting for any of the Councillors who voted for this budget.  Make sure you put them right down the bottom, because that seems to be where they put you.


Council 08/09 Budget:  Drowning In Debt - What Council Didn't Tell You

(24/6/08 - C)  Is it back to the 'bad old days' of having to check every inch of a budget?  Council's unannounced change to its accounting method for borrowings makes a terrible outcome look good.   MRRA tackles the key points in its Budget Myths

At its Ordinary Meeting in Kyneton (Town Hall) on Wednesday 25th June 2008, starting at 7.00 pm, Council will decide whether to adopt its draft Budget. Ratepayers might like to pop along wearing their life vests or similar life-saving apparatus to make the point that if this budget (and the Kyneton pool) go ahead, ratepayers and the Shire will be drowning in debt.


MRRA lodged a submission on the draft Budget, raising a number of issues, but also calling for changes to be made and the draft Budget to be re-exhibited. Why?  Because Council has moved the goal posts for measuring financial health, and didn't tell anyone about it (see Budget Myth # 5).  The change has the effect of making Council's rapidly mounting debt look a whole lot better than it is. 


Frankly, MRRA smells a rat, or at least would like some answers.  Is Council fiddling around with formulas to try and 'technically' get away with putting the Shire into so much debt?  Fiddling, so to speak, while the Shire burns financially? 


MRRA has referred this and other issues to the Minister for Local Government, Richard Wynne, and with the Auditor General, Mr. Des Pearson. 


Also, in this, the year Council starts putting the pieces into place for the Kyneton pool, Council didn't hold public meetings about the draft Budget.  It would have been nice to have one...


You can download a copy of the draft Budget from Council's website  Click on For Your Comment and you will find the draft Budget tucked away there.




Motion To Get Rid Of Kyneton Pool Goes Belly Up On 5 To 4 Vote

(2/6/08 - C)  But the "five" who support going ahead with the pool - Crs. Harvey, Connor, Bleeck, Relph and Neil - didn't have the courage to say why they voted the way they did.  It gives new meaning to "silent majority" and some - many? - may think it pushes Macedon Ranges' democracy even further down the toilet

In what has been called a 'disgrace' and a 'farce' by witnesses, Macedon Ranges' Council last Wednesday decided - by just one vote - to continue on the path to financial ruin by persisting with the Kyneton Aquatic Centre proposal. 


At the meeting, it was agreed to bring Councillor John Letchford's notice of motion (to abandon the Kyneton pool proposal) forward and deal with it before considering the draft budget.  Cr. Letchford moved the motion, and when the Mayor asked if any were opposed to the motion, no-one raised their hand.  Yet, when it came time to vote on the motion, five Councillors voted against it (Noel Harvey, John Connor, Henry Bleeck, Helen Relph and Geoff Neil.  We will never know why, because none of them The same outcome prevailed for the draft budget (which is understood to include a $4 million loan to finance the Kyneton pool), and so the financial disaster moved forward. 


In the debate over the draft budget, Cr. Tom Gyorffy was interrupted on a point of order from Geoff Neil, and then cut off  by Mayor Noel Harvey (when asked by Cr. Gyorffy if he was being gagged, the Mayor is understood to have agreed that was the case).  Click here to see the full version of Cr. Gyorffy's speech (including the bits Macedon Ranges Council didn't want to hear, or you to hear). 


A key point made by Cr. Gyorffy is that Council needs to reconsider everything in light of the substantial increase in oil prices. That hasn't been done and is openly admitted.  Council is using a 3.5% inflation figure, whereas last week the Municipal Association of Victoria [MAV] predicted an average cost increase to Council's of 4.4% - and that's without the rising interest costs or oil prices!  Click here to see MAV's media release.


This decision moves the $9 - 10 million Kyneton pool (based on last year's costings) forward.


MRRA Says:


We've seen it all before with this Council (and the first two Councils Macedon Ranges had, post-amalgamation).  The 'secret' briefing session before the meeting at a time not all Councillors can attend; the stony silence in chamber; the predictable (some might say orchestrated) hands raised in the air; the inevitable 'block voting' outcome; and no explanation of why the majority of hands went up when they did. 


Every resident and ratepayer should be concerned not only by what they did, but also the way they did it.  You can be sure you haven't heard the last of this...


Notice of Motion At Council Meeting Wednesday Night - Get Rid Of Kyneton Pool!

(26/5/08 - C)  Will they or won't they?  The notice of motion also asks for costs to upgrade existing pool and stadium facilities, and for all costs to be publicly revealed.

In what could be seen as a move suggesting there is some dissention in the ranks, Cr. John Letchford (South Ward) has put up a notice of motion for Wednesday's Council meeting in Romsey.  The notice of motion is publicly available from Council's website, at Council meetings:  Here's the notice of motion:

Notice of Motion No. 11/2008 – Cr John Letchford: Page 43, Council Agenda, 28 May 2008


That Council recommends to the CEO to carry out the following, that;


a) After due consideration of the immediate and ongoing financial impact to implement the Macedon Ranges Aquatic Strategy that the CEO immediately withdraw from further investigation, funding, associated works to the proposed Indoor Heated Aquatic Facility in Kyneton,


b) to provide a revised budget in consideration of acquitting the expenses incurred as a result of withdrawing from the Kyneton Indoor Heated Pool,


c) provide a revised budget to carry out the necessary structural/mechanical/restorative works associated with the Indoor Stadium and Outdoor Pool, and


d) provide a communication strategy to release the current May 2008 building cost estimates, ongoing operating costs and revised pool designs (to scale) to advise the residents/ratepayers the true costs associated with the development.

The Council meeting of 28th May 2008 is an Ordinary Council Meeting, starting at 7.00pm in the Romsey Community Hub, 96-100 Main Street, Romsey.


MRRA Says:

Well, well, well...  The $9 Million PLUS question is, of course, will they or won't they?  It will be mesmerizing to see who votes which way.


We would encourage those Councillors who aspire to another term on Council to hit this potentially disastrous project on the head before any more financial - and political - damage is done.


We would also encourage those residents who oppose the pool or are concerned about the financial ramifications of it to attend the meeting in Romsey on Wednesday.


Kyneton Pool?  Read "Money Pit" and Rip Off For Ratepayers That Should See 5 Current Councillors Thrown Out At The 2008 Council Election

(11/10/07 - C)  This unaffordable "gift" to so few residents will suck Council resources dry, divert funding from everywhere else in the Shire, rip ratepayers off for years, and there’s even talk of the Shire being bankrupt within 2 years of the pool’s completion.  Who thought this was a good idea?  Crs. Harvey, Neil, Bleeck, Relph and Connor - the candidates NOT to vote for in 2008

Reports from the Council meeting on 26 September say there was no point anybody putting facts or conscience or the public interest forward - THE FIVE (Crs Noel Harvey, Geoff Neil, Henry Bleeck, Helen Relph and John Connor) just weren't interested.  It seems their eyes and minds weren't focussed on their responsibilities as our elected representatives quite so much as it was on making a decision which would deliver on some unrealistic election promises and therefore curry some political favour (with the expectation no doubt that votes would follow).   What a deeply profound reason for delivering the ratepayers of Macedon Ranges Shire into a financial morass from which they may never extricate themselves.


Council's pool policy says there won't be an indoor pool in Kyneton until it's economically feasible to do so.  Is that time now?  Let's see.  Going ahead with the pool is forecast to result in between 3.5% and 5% rate increases - plus a $30+ annual charge - for years to come, and will see the Shire go deeply into debt - possibly bankrupt.  There is some thought that even the costings our esteemed Councillors are relying on are hopelessly out of date, which would see costs rise well before any "unforeseen" but inevitable cost over-runs are taken into account.  Then there are the on-going operating costs.  Gisborne pool is already costing ratepayers $250,000 a year, so add Kyneton to that (MRRA hears ratepayers will subside those who use the Kyneton pool to the tune of $6 per swim).  Ratepayers are entitled to ask why the pool is proposed where the tennis courts are now, because to get the pool means the existing courts have to be demolished and rebuilt somewhere else. 


And is it true that those who want the Kyneton indoor pool also want a new outdoors pool as well, and that the Woodend pool will be closed if the Kyneton pool goes ahead (won't need one because half of Woodend will use Gisborne, the other half Kyneton, don't you know)? 


Add to all of that the things ratepayers WON'T have as this Kyneton pool demands and consumes most of Council's resources.  We've already seen Council cut services to elderly and infirm residents for home and garden maintenance.  On the same night it decided to splurge $700,000 on the Kyneton pool, the future was writ large on the wall as Council decided it didn't have the money to buy a piece of land in Kyneton for new public open space, and it couldn't afford some small funding for the Kerrie School project.  Council has already been flogging off other open space, and even the walking school bus is already in trouble, with funding only reluctantly extended until next year.  What else will residents forfeit, go without while paying more, to feed this insatiable 'money pit' monster?


MRRA Says:


Like grasshoppers rather than ants, in their eagerness to live only for the moment (there are no guarantees they will be around to face the consequences of a decision which seems to have been taken lightly), these five Councillors have, by deciding to expend $700,000 supposedly to find out whether they will go the final step, either wasted a whole lot of ratepayers' money, or are being dishonest with ratepayers by acting on an intention to go the whole hog while trying to allay community alarm by doing it in steps and saying that's not what they are actually doing.  At best a ghastly compromise, at worst it condemns the people of this Shire to a future of financial hardship and uncertainty, and exposes some clear deficiencies in the quality of the Shire's elected representation.

Here again are the five Councillors NOT TO VOTE FOR in 2008 - put them last on your ballot paper:

X Noel Harvey, West ward

X Henry Bleeck, currently East ward but speculation is that Henry will run in the West ward in 2008

X Helen Relph, South ward

X John Connor, West ward

X Geoff Neil, East ward


Council To Review Kyneton Pool Costings

(28/8/07 - C)  Surprise vote result sees Council (albeit apparently reluctantly by some) take a precautionary approach

Yes, a busload of placard-waving protesters attended the Council meeting in Romsey on Wednesday night, and yes, the motion to review the costings for an indoor pool in Kyneton still got up.  It appears Council will now wait on a report to be prepared by the CE, putting pool costs into 2007 dollars and taking into account other factors, including rising interest rates, before making any further decisions or spending any more money on this project.  A contentious clause in the originally proposed motion - specifying no further money be spent - was dropped when it was realized that any further expenditure (such as putting out a tender) would in any event require approval from full Council.


MRRA Says:


Well done for now, but it really was the only responsible step Council could take, wasn't it?  We understand there was quite some argy-bargy during debate with calls for apologies coming from both a Councillor who is a key proponent of the pool (Harvey), and one who is a key proponent for more accountability and further consideration (Gyorffy).  Our information is that in the end, even the key proponent - after initially arguing it wasn't needed - voted to review the costings (a move which seems to have confused a few of the pro-pool members of the gallery), and the amended motion was passed on a surprising 7-2 vote.  Apparently only the Mayor, Helen Relph and West ward councillor, John Connor, opposed.  We hear that Cr. Connor earlier made a number of references to the pool being in Gisborne until Cr. Letchford pointed out the pool under discussion was in fact in Kyneton.


Council To Vote On Calling For New Costings For Kyneton Pool At Tonight's Council Meeting (at Romsey)

(22/8/07 - C)   MRRA endorses having some up-to-date information on costs before a decision is made on whether to go ahead with the pool

Macedon Ranges' council meets tonight and Cr. John Letchford has put up the following Notice of Motion, recommending to the Chief Executive that all current expenditure on the proposed Kyneton Indoor Aquatic Centre cease until a report to Council is received on the following: (a) report on the proposed design of the aquatic centre and all additional buildings, (b) report on the projected building costs as well as operational costs, and (c) report in the Shire financial modelling with emphasis as to the impact upon Council's budget and future budgets as well as rate modelling.


MRRA Says:


Oh boy, is it going to be interesting to see who votes for what on this one...  Word on the street is that Kyneton residents have been lobbied by the group who support going the pool ahead, via letter drops, to get to the Council meeting to put Councillors under pressure.  WHY?  We can only hope that this group isn't saying it doesn't want to know what it will cost all ratepayers if the project goes ahead.  We've got a reasonable idea what the Gisborne pool is costing, and as they say, once bitten twice shy...


MRRA reps at the Council meeting this time last year in Romsey - when after a heated debate a split decision was made to apply for State funding - heard Councillors agree that the decision being made wasn't a go-ahead for the pool, it was a go-ahead to apply for funding.  Let's not switch horses mid-course and say the decision last year was a big tick for building the pool, because it wasn't.


Splish-Splash - Council Finances Go Crash As 'Usual' Councillors Go For Kyneton Indoor Pool

(28/8/06 - C)  If you pay rates in Macedon Ranges, you should be afraid

Early in the Council meeting on Wednesday 23 August, as Council considered its Business Review ending 30th June, Cr. Rob Guthrie flagged his concerns with the on-going losses being incurred by the Gisborne indoor pool ($271,000 in its first year of operations - $100,000 over budget) and an apparent concurrent dip in attendance numbers.  He warned Council it needed to be mindful of the centre's operations. The Business Review was adopted without comment on its contents from other Councillors. 


Five agenda items later, Cr. Noel Harvey enthusiastically moved, and Cr. John Letchford equally enthusiastically seconded, a motion that Council endorse making a submission to Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV) seeking $2,500,000 funding for an indoor pool in Kyneton.  In a report by Officer Rod Clough, the cost of an indoor pool was given at $7,000,000. Council's cost of $4,500,000 (after SRV funding) to be obtained from Asset sales ($200,000), Community contribution ($200,000), Loan ($2,400,000), and General Revenue ($1,655,000).  But there's more...


The indoor pool would only be part of the package proposed as the new Kyneton Aquatic Centre.  Also included is Tennis Court and Clubhouse redevelopment ($428,000 - the new pool is proposed on the existing tennis courts necessitating new courts to be constructed), and refurbishment of the existing Kyneton Sporting Complex ($734,000).  The total capital works package is $8,117,413.00.  Estimated operating losses (pool and sporting complex) will be $222,000 in the first year, and $187,875 per year on a 10-year average basis.   These figures are based on over 118,000 people attending the facilities in the first year (some 30,000 more than attended the Gisborne pool), with 146,220 persons attending per year on a 10-year average basis.


Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said Council wasn't committing to any dollars by supporting the motion**, simply reconfirming what had been agreed in 2000.  He was bringing it forward because of the State election.   Cr. Letchford (South) said he couldn't see a logical reason why Council couldn't have a pool in the north, this one with additional features of gym, kiosk and creche. He was scathing of the previous Council's failure to include these 'ancillary' features at Gisborne, and said they were great swimmers in Kyneton and the community would take less time to get the money than Gisborne.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) opposed, saying he was a Councillor for all of the Shire, not just his ward.  He expressed concern at substantial losses with the Gisborne pool, and objected to a combined 'black hole' of $500,000 yearly from just these two pools if Kyneton went ahead, especially when elderly people weren't going to get their lawns mowed because Council couldn't afford it.  He would love to have the pool in Kyneton and have poorer people get more out of rates, but it wasn't in the interests of people in Macedon Ranges to have another pool sucking heaps of money out of the budget.  Mayor Geoff Neil (East) also opposed saying once again people in the east of the Shire were to subsidize the Calder corridor, and once again would be 'cash-cows' for other residents.  He said he couldn't see where Council could find $4.5 million, particularly with losses at Gisborne.  He argued Romsey was growing and would be the place to put another pool when it was economical to do so.  He flagged an alternative motion of laying the matter on the table but the motion was disallowed.  Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) said he was concerned about costs.  Indoor pools can be 'black holes', costs had blown out at Gisborne and the same officer had done costings for Gisborne and Kyneton. 


Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) said the Kyneton pool was 50 years old, and the numbers to make it work would be there - there are 3,000 pupils and Kyneton is growing.  He said Council could sell the Gisborne pool if it was stuck for money.  Cr. Helen Relph (South) said it went against all her beliefs to look at this and say it would lose money.  Kyneton has a strong swim club, and there were a lot of students; maybe Council get more money.  Cr. Sandra McGregor (East) said she opposed the pool for the same basic reasons as Crs. Gyorffy, Neil and Guthrie.  She said Council should consider it at a future date.  There was already an 8.91% rate increase and Council is cutting services; Council can't justify committing to another pool at this point.   Cr. Noel Harvey (West) closed debate saying local government was finally moving into core and non-core promises - he spoke loudly of how the Kyneton community had been given a very firm commitment 6 years ago and he was appalled to think Council was now saying sorry, get stuffed, we are not honouring that commitment.  He said a Kyneton pool would have substantially more use than Gisborne, Gisborne people have choices (15 minutes to 2 pools).  Kyneton had a growing young population and old people used pools too.  He derided Mayor Neil's comment that this was a hasty decision, saying it had been coming for 6 years and said again he was appalled Council might say wait, it costs too much.  He said other Councils provide pools and they all make a loss.  Council gave a strong commitment and was well placed with the State election coming up. 


The motion to pursue funding was moved Cr. Noel Harvey (West), seconded Cr. John Letchford (South) and supported by Crs. Helen Relph (South), John Connor (West) and Henry Bleeck (East), with Crs. Tom Gyorffy (West), Rob Guthrie (South), Sandra McGregor (East) and Geoff Neil (East) opposed.


MRRA Says:

MRRA reps were wondering which planet they were on by the time debate closed on this one, and by the fact that those supporting such massive expenditure seemed to hold so little concern for cost blow-outs at Gisborne.  And despite Cr. Harvey's comment that approving the motion didn't commit Council to dollars, the officer's report clearly states just preparing the submission will cost $30,000 ** (which by our reckoning would probably keep mowing services to low income and disadvantaged residents going for another year). 


But the spending spree didn't stop there...  By the end of the meeting Council had also agreed to spend $17,000 on the Gisborne Skate Park (unbudgeted, from reserves), $15,000 on landscaping in Clarkefield (unbudgeted, from reserves)*, $2,500 on providing a meal to the 430 Air Force Squadron cadets and their families* (unbudgeted), providing Christmas decorations to the Shire's main towns* (unbudgeted), funding staff and signs for parades* (unbudgeted) and demolishing the former Kyneton Guide Hall* (unbudgeted, involves asbestos removal).  Items marked with an asterisk* were submitted as notices of motion, and were approved without an officer's report on costs, liability, process or any other issues.  For example, no-one seemed to know much about the former Kyneton Guide Hall, such as who owned it, any legal or notice requirements that may exist or what it would cost to demolish it and remove the asbestos, but that didn't stop Crs. Bleeck (moved), Letchford (seconded), Harvey, McGregor, Connor and Neil from approving it (only Crs. Gyorffy and Guthrie opposed).  Cr. Gyorffy in fact seemed to test the Mayor's patience by pointedly opposing almost all notices of motion.  Cr. John Letchford stood out as seconding many of them.


Putting up a wish list through notices of motion might seem an easy way to get what some Councillors want.  However, MRRA says making major but uninformed decisions "on the run" through notices of motion abuses that process, and potentially exposes the community to substantial liability and financial consequences.  It is an irresponsible, if not negligent, practice that must stop.