Marine centre in fight for funding

Alex de Vos
A lack of funding could force Queenscliff’s Marine Discovery Centre to close its doors to children on school holidays.
The centre has blamed a funding crisis for management shortening operating hours, closing on the weekends, scrapping student work experience programs and suspending a sand dunes revegetation program.
Now school holiday programs and activities could also face the axe.
A community group fighting for the survival of the State Government-funded centre has organised a rally tomorrow to generate support and to publicise the funding shortfall.
Friends of the Marine Discovery Centre treasurer Amanda Bianco said the facility faced a bleak future.
The friends group reformed last year after a reduction in staff at the centre and cuts to its participation in community events and activities.
Ms Bianco labelled the centre a “fabulous” community asset.
“We need ongoing commitment to funding, not just a stop gap, and hopefully this rally will raise awareness and highlight these concerns,” Ms Bianco said.
“The centre is an invaluable asset to our community, our children and the health of our marine environment.”
The centre provides curriculum-based education for early childhood, school and tertiary groups as well as programs for the general community.
About 60,000 visitors pass through the centre each year.
During school holidays the centre runs activities for all ages, such as canoeing, craft, beachcombing and boat trips.
Ms Bianco said the demise of the school and holiday programs was inevitable without a funding boost.
“The centre is also a tourism asset but unfortunately without funding they can’t keep it open on weekends,” she said.
“Our attempts to highlight these concerns to the relevant government bodies appear to have fallen on deaf ears.”
Borough of Queenscliffe Mayor Chris Player backed the Friends of the Marine Discovery Centre, pledging his council’s support to the campaign for more funding.
“We have a world-class facility here at Swan Bay and it’s important that the facility be used for the community to gain an understanding of the environment,” Cr Player said.
“We have written to the minister with regard to additional funding and we’re waiting to see what comes of that.”