By Luke Voogt
Geelong’s planned Northern Aquatic and Community Hub has moved a step closer to reality following an $8.5 million commitment in the 2021-22 state budget, announced today
But the Victorian government stopped short of fulfilling council’s request for $20 million each in state and federal funding for the $61.6 million Norlane hub.
The “token” state government commitment drew a mixed response from Norlane residents campaigning for the “desperately-needed” project.
“We’re pleased that we’ve received it,” campaign organiser Sandra Anderson said.
“But it’s still not even half of what we wanted.
“We’re not going to sit on our laurels. We’re going to dig in our heels, say this is something that the north desperately needs and look at how we can get a bit more funding.”
The state government commitment narrowly surpasses $8.26 million in federal funding for the project allocated by council from the Commonwealth’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Fund.
Geelong council has already committed $20.6 million, its largest-ever social infrastructure contribution, to the project, which it described as “vitally important”.
Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher welcomed the state government commitment as a major step forward.
“We are excited and grateful that our advocacy to the state government has achieved today’s result, meaning we are now closer to our … funding goal that would get this project off the ground,” Cr Asher said.
“This facility will be life-changing for many generations in our northern suburbs – and today’s announcement shows that the state also sees the benefits.”
Council plans to allocate more funding to the project in its 2021-22 draft budget, which if approved would bring its total commitment to $23 million.
Council also hopes to obtain a further $10 million through the Commonwealth’s Building Better Regions Fund.
Windermere ward councillor Anthony Aitken described the commitment as a major milestone in council’s five-year advocacy campaign.
“This state government contribution represents a big leap towards achieving our vision of delivering this vital facility for the north,” Cr Aitken said.
“Today’s outcome reflects the commitment and dedication of our local state members in their support for the project.
“The state funding is fantastic news and we will now work hard to identify other federal and state government opportunities to address the shortfall and get this transformative project started.
“Thanks to the extra [$800,000] investment by the Council late last year to complete the final design stage and make the project shovel-ready, we can get work underway as soon as we have secured full funding.”
Council estimates the hub will deliver $111 million in preventative health benefits during its first decade, and will support 111 local jobs during construction.
The budget also includes $20 million to build a new emergency department zones dedicated to children at University Hospital Geelong.
Geelong Arts Centre will receive $6.3 million to improve its visitor experience, and support local jobs and operations as work continues on the final stage of the centre’s redevelopment.
State government will also invest $4.46 million in managing the iconic Great Ocean Road under its new Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority.
A new hospital will be built in Torquay following a $556 million investment to build or upgrade 10 community hospitals across Victoria, state government announced.
On the Bellarine Peninsula, the budget will provide Barwon Heads Tennis Club with up to $275,000 to upgrade its facilities.
The budget will deliver $167 million to introduce government-funded kindergarten for every three-year-old child, with the service set to reach Geelong for the first time.