Bruce Comben Reserve & Aquatic Centre – Lack of Community Consultation & Proper Process

I support a new Aquatic Centre at Comben Reserve, but regret that it appears the council has not followed due process with this project and are trying to rush it through.  Despite my efforts the Council has also resolved to limit community consultation to 4 weeks during the stage 3 lockdowns and declared state emergency, rather than the 8 weeks I sought.

At the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, the council resolved to adopt the Aquatic Strategy and to “establish a Stakeholder Reference Group to guide the Bruce Comben Reserve Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study“.  The Reference Group was established but the Feasibility Study has not yet commenced.  Instead, the council administration sought to put together yet another Bruce Comben Master Plan without any direction from the Council to do this, and despite a Bruce Comben Master Plan having already having been developed and approved by council in 2011.

Here is the Aquatic Strategy that was adopted by the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, along with the council administration’s recommended motion which was passed:
(a) HBCC Aquatic Strategy; and
(b) HBCC Aquatic Strategy Resolution (Adopted 9Jul19).

The Bruce Comben Masterplan was drafted by the council officers and involved very little consultation with residents living near Comben Reserve.  There is also some concern about the process to appoint community members to the Reference Group and improper influence or misuse of power.  I won’t comment about that, but I can confirm the Reference Group only met 3 times.  The first meeting was held in December 2019 and this merely focused on introductions, the aims of the group, etc.  The remaining two meetings were held on May and June 2020.  Both meetings offered little opportunity for input and lasted 90 minutes each.  The members were not provided with any draft plans prior to the meetings and were not given the opportunity to carefully consider what was drafted before providing input.  I have the minutes of these three meetings.

I am therefore concerned council officers failed to provide the Council with an Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study, and instead put up a Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan that increases the footprint of the sporting clubs and car parks, reducing a significant amount of passive open space to the south, and that will likely significantly change the topography of the area.  That change isn’t bad per se, but they need to be subject to proper community consultation.

We don’t even know if the Aquatic Centre is feasible, so why adopt a master plan right now?  If the Aquatic Centre isn’t feasible the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan will have to be revised again and a significant amount of resources would have been wasted.  Also, why has the council rejected a 50m pool despite the community overwhelmingly wanting one and despite not having a feasibility study conducted?  Finally, why limit the community consultation to 4 weeks at a time when the community is in lockdown and cannot have an onsite community meeting, consult with neighbours, distribute flyers or put a petition together?  A councillor made the point that she wanted this issue resolved before the election, but why?  Pushing a multi million dollar project through hastily is not prudent nor a responsible way to manage public money or projects.  I would prefer to get this right.

The implementation of the masterplan is estimated at around $8 million, and the Aquatic Centre will be much more than that again.  Let’s make sure we get this right.

I encourage residents to review the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan, but please note the Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study has not yet been conducted and that this plan needs to be underpinned by certainty about the Aquatic Centre (including whether a 50m pool is feasible).  Here are the relevant documents:
(a) Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan; and
(b) Bruce Comben Reserve Recommendation & Report 14Jul20.

The Bruce Comben Reserve Draft Master Plan will be open for public exhibition until 12pm, Saturday 15 August.  Refer to https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/brucecomben 

Please complete the survey above and provide any additional feedback or concerns to:

Jake Trevaskis or Georgri Burns
Phone: 9932 1000
Email:  projects@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

Please feel free to send me a copy of your submission.  My email address is tbriffa@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing a wonderful aquatic centre in Altona Meadows!

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Cr Tony Briffa JP
Councillor, City of Hobsons Bay
(14 July 2020)