Grassroots sports and recreation ignored again!

Sports and recreation is an area where the government appears to be spending a lot of money. Although finally delivering on the promise of a leisure centre for the Stromlo/Molonglo area, long overdue, it ignores the needs of the grassroots sporting community.

The indoor swimming centre to be built at Stromlo Forest Park  is long overdue.  Promised during the 2008 election, work on this will finally begin – according to the budget papers, by the end of this year. We are looking forward to seeing this get underway. Though it is disappointing that it will not include a dive pool. And there is no discussion of an indoor sports centre, though the government’s feasibility study strongly recommended including one in this facility.

We also welcome the announcement, and funding, for a feasibility study for an indoor sports centre for Gungahlin. Though the Minister wrongly told the Assembly last year (and again reiterated earlier this year) that this was already being conducted. We ask the Minister to commit to and prioritise the building of an indoor sporting centre for Gungahlin.

Though maybe asking the government to commit to anything, might not be such a great idea. During the recent election, several key promises were made to the grass-roots sporting bodies such as the Tuggeranong Rowing Club - who were promised a grant of two hundred thousand dollars for permanent club facilities. Whilst the Canberra Kart Racing Club was promised a similar sum for the upgrade of its Mark Webber Circuit Track.

In response to questions on notice as to why these promises were not kept, the government tells us that they remain committed to them. I wonder how long the clubs will have to wait. Till someone is seriously injured on the track, till the Tuggeranong Rowing Club decides to move across the border, and we lose yet another sporting club here in the ACT?

I called on the government recently to “get real” about their support of the grass roots sporting community, not just the elite sports. I again call on the government to get real.

Of course, it is not all bad news, and we see the government has split sports and recreation portfolio responsibilities across two Directorates. With “Sporting facilities Management” moving to TCCS. This seems an appropriate move. But we would like to question, what is involved in the maintenance costs? A single line item appears in the budget to cover all of this area.

For example, will the maintenance of Boominulla Oval finally be addressed? Boominulla Oval is in a disgraceful state. In May of this year, the Minister claimed that the management of the oval fell under her portfolio responsibilities. In which case, this facility should have been maintained as a matter of course, with all other ovals and recreation facilities. The ongoing and disgraceful state of the oval is indicative of this governments’ failure to maintain even basic standards for its facilities. The longer the government fails to act the higher the cost to the people of the ACT. Hopefully, with the move of maintenance to TCCS, we will finally see the full repair and restoration of the oval, as a property that is central to the indigenous community, but also to the whole Canberran Community.

This is but one example of an area that needs critical attention. I can name many others that have been ignored for too long. The lack of appropriate change facilities at many of our public sporting grounds. The lack of storage facilities – a drive around the suburbs will demonstrate that many of the sporting clubs now use containers as a way of storing their gear – containers which have been vandalised and become an eye-sore for the local community. I could go on, but the list would be too long.

I therefore agree with the Committee’s recommendation, that to maintain transparency in the budget in this important portfolio area, we call on the government to act. Rather than a broad number, which is included as part of the Output 2.4 City Maintenance and Services, a separate budget line is maintained for Sportsgrounds Facilities Management, which will include detailed line items for costs and incomes associated with:

  • Maintenance
  • Lighting and other user charges
  • Irrigation
  • Capital upgrades – per project itemised
  • Capital expenditure – per project itemised
  • User charges income from sportsground facilities management
  • Employee expenses resulting from sportsgrounds facilities management