Submission to Wyndham City Council WCC for Budget 2018/9 for a swimming pool/ indoor recreation facilities at Point Cook, on behalf of Point Cook Action Group
Point Cook has grown rapidly and will continue to grow its population and yet there is an under provision of council facilities that should be addressed to meet the needs of our community.
Current WCC facilities at AquaPulse are oversubscribed and along with Eagle Stadium are not practically accessible from our area by public transport. Future plans to build a pool in Tarneit will not address the needs of Point Cook residents which by WCC’s own policy standards are not adequate.
It seems obvious to expect all Australian children be able to swim. The importance of aquatic safety and ongoing practice has been recognized in Victorian Curriculum Standards, particularly pertinent to Point Cook as our high migrant population is statistically at risk from inability to swim. Local school principals will depend on access to local swimming facilities to meet the standards.
In new developments, the council has provided local sports grounds with changing rooms for Urban Dry Land Outdoor Sports; activities not preferred by females and people of different ethnicities. This imbalance should be addressed to encourage wider participation in physical activity across our diverse suburb.
The WCC should urgently address the needs of our significant Point Cook population by building a local swimming pool/ indoor recreation complex. Funding should be available by working with the State government to fulfill the curriculum initiatives around water safety and by exploring public/private partnerships with developers. Currently the opportunity exists for planning and provision with current or new school developments in our suburb.
There are compelling arguments to be made for WCC to improve the provision of recreational and sporting facilities in the Point Cook area. According to the Regional Plan 2016-2019 by Western Melbourne RDA (1) “Rates of preventable health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and other general cardiovascular conditions are higher in the West” and we experience “One of the highest rates of preventable (lifestyle) diseases in Australia”. The report also acknowledged that we are experiencing a growth rate that is outstripping the rate of infrastructure investment but a positive point is that there is a supply of greenfield sites for development. The advantages of participating in physical activity is universally accepted, VicHealth (2) reported that sport improved physical and mental health, capacity, social functioning and overall individual and community wellbeing.
Looking at WCC policies in place, the Aquatic Strategy (3) and the Wyndham Sports Strategy (4) it is stated that WCC supports ”local leisure options while working towards all residents having local accessto…..major leisure facilities (such as swimming pools, ….and major sporting venues) WCC Aquatic Strategy, and “Local access is important to individuals in the way they can connect and access areas in close proximity to where they live” Wyndham Sports Strategy (my italics) and it seems that Point Cook is being left behind as current and future development to the north west takes priority over addressing the inadequacy of access here, now and in the future to a public swimming pool and indoor sports and recreation facility in Point Cook.
Inadequate provision by WCC of accessible activities for Point Cook area
Western Health (5) describes our council area as “home to major recreation and leisure facilities including AquaPulse and Eagle Stadium”. These are both located in the centre and to the west of our council area and a Tarneit site has been acquired for an indoor recreation facilities and swimming pool complex to the north west. According to the map in the Aquatic Strategy, the suburbs to the South and East, most of Point Cook, Truganina and Werribee South fall outside the buffer zones of all of these facilities. These are also suburbs “on the other side of the Princes Freeway”.
The WCC Aquatic Strategy from 2011, reflects that “there had been ongoing interest by the residents of Point Cook for a facility to be developed in their local area, particularly when the area meets its targeted population of 60,000 people.” The Harrison Ward population 85,800 in 2018 has been estimated to reach to 130,000 by 2036 well within “Level 4 in a provision model for a number of larger catchment facilities which cater for populations between 60,000 and 200,000 people.” Although developments of non-council facilities were outlined for Point Cook neither the Carranballac College nor the YMCA proposal has come to fruition.
Point Cook residents access to swimming pools and indoor recreation facilities
Australians should all be able to swim. The Victorian Government has acknowledged the number of drownings and placed swimming safety programs in the school curriculum.(6) Point Cook’s population of 49,926, is 28.0% children between 0-14 years, according to the most recent ABS census (7) and yet the nearest indoor WCC pool at AquaPulse is already full to capacity and the only alternative planned is even further away. In addition, a recent article in The Age (8) reported that the cost of lessons and transport will create real problems according to school principals. The impact of distance and time travelling to and from swimming lessons will also impact on curriculum programs.
Another article in Canberra Times (9) found that students need to keep up with swimming by practicing to improve their skills to a sufficient level of competence and safety and yet in Point Cook local access to public pools is limited by insufficient capacity and poor public transport access. Using Google Maps it can take 1h 20 min to travel from Point Cook to AquaPulse by public transport, using 4 buses and nearly 2 hours to reach Eagle Stadium (variations occur due to time of day). For Point Cook youth these facilities are not realistically accessible in an evening or without a car.
This also impacts on unemployed youth when according to a recent report by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence (10), using the latest ABS data, ranks Melbourne’s West amongst the top 20 regions in Australia with the highest rate of youth unemployment. There is evidence that youth unemployment is going to be difficult to combat in the future economic climate and they will need facilities to positively engage them.
In a rapidly growing area many of our residents come from countries where there is little culture of swimming. According to the ABS Census (7) over 17% of adults are from China and India, Lifesaving Australia has called on councils to assist, “We do know that people born overseas make up 30-40 per cent of our drowning statistics every year, so it’s obviously a cohort we need to do more education with. We’re obviously very encouraging of councils and universities that want to do water safety for international students and migrants.” (11)
Gender and other issues and access to swimming and indoor sports facilities
There is evidence of inequalities in participation rates between males and females and according to the Victorian Government “Increasing physical activity levels for females is important for health and mental wellbeing.” There are many reasons for this. Upgrading sporting infrastructure to encourage participation and addressing the lack of access to adequate playing facilities near homes (my italics) are mentioned as factors by the Womens Sports Foundation. (12)
The WCC Sports Strategy survey indicates the highest participation rates for females in aerobics/group fitness, swimming, gym and/fitness/boot-camp and females are also represented by numbers in netball, Pilates, yoga, tennis, dance and cycling and yet it appears that there has been a focus on providing across the city for Urban Dry Land Outdoor Sports such as soccer, AFL and Rugby with change rooms and playing fields. However, many of the preferred activities of females require Urban Dry Land Indoor Sports facilities such as the Eagle Stadium which as discussed is not very accessible from Pont Cook and a smaller complex in this area of the city would be utilized since activity spaces in Community Centres are in demand.
With our population diversity we might expect to see more participation in activities such as table tennis, hockey, badminton, martial arts, indoor cricket again requiring Urban Dry Land Indoor Sports facilities (not hockey) i.e. an indoor recreation centre.
The PCAG believes that WCC should review its current strategies to include the Point Cook area in planning for a relatively modest swimming pool/indoor sports facility. This could be constructed on land attached to a school/community centre, for example at one of the new schools announced in the May Stare budget, which would make it accessible to the Point Cook community and those nearby Wyndham suburbs currently without easy access to AquaPulse and Eagle Stadium.. As well as vital public and educational access to swimming, such a centre could provide indoor physical fitness activities for women and our diverse community with a variety of indoor sports.
The comparison estimates for similar complexes to AquaPulse in WCC Aquatic Strategy (4) are in the region of $45 million dollars. What we are proposing is somewhat more modest, concentrating on an indoor sports area and learning to swim facilities rather than water play, hydro therapy and the like. The provision of swimming facilities in line with the educational needs of nearby schools to fulfill their curriculum requirements and we are seeking the views of our local principals on this issue.
WCC representing a major growth area has a great opportunity to develop an innovative model to plan, fund and build this type of vital facility for increased population numbers and new schools. Point Cook Action Group suggests the council form partnerships with the State Government to whom we will make similar submissions; to the Minister for Sport and our local representative, the Minister for Health, and also local developers especially those contracted to build new schools.
Given the importance of providing “learn to Swim” pools and tuition for all school children the PCAG is requesting that a suitable pool is included in the design of the new proposed secondary school at Saltwater in Point Cook. This would complement the indoor sports centre which could be planned for shared community use and the oval which has already been designated for the proposed school in the 2018 state budget. It is proposed that the indoor sports and proposed swimming pool would be used by school students during the day but offered to the public outside school hours during the week and at weekends.
Some suggested options for funding for this proposed swimming pool are as follows:
Option 1. That the state government fully fund the school facilities which would include an indoor sports complex and a “learn to Swim” pool at the proposed new secondary school at Saltwater. The management of the “out of School” activities would preferably be provided by a private operator such as YMCA, Belgravia, the Tigers Football club or State Swim.
Option 2. That the state government considers developing a partnership agreement with the Wyndham City Council to jointly fund include an indoor sports complex and “learn to Swim” pool at Saltwater. The agreement would allow the public to use the facilities “Out of Hours” during the week and at weekends perhaps under the management by the council or a private operator such as YMCA, Belgravia, the Tigers Football club or State Swim.
Option 3. That the state government consider a proposal for a private provider to fund include the indoor sports complex and the “learn to swim” facility and then provide a lease back agreement to either the state government or to a joint State government/Wyndham City Council consortium. The agreement would allow the public to use the complex “Out of Hours” during the week and at weekends perhaps under the management by the council or a private operator such as YMCA, Belgravia, the Tigers Football club or State Swim.
- Regional Plan 2016–2019 Page 11 Western Melbourne RDA Committee
- Brotherhood of St Laurence, March 2016, Australia’s Youth Unemployment Hotspots, Snapshot