By Colin MacGillivray
FEDERAL Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was in Wallan on Thursday to announce an $8 million kickstart for the planned Greenhill Recreation Precinct, if the Liberals are elected.
The recreation precinct will provide sporting facilities for a rapidly growing Wallan population, including a possible future aquatic complex and various sports courts.
The government’s $8 million election pledge will allow for servicing works at the site of the planned reserve, which is owned by Mitchell Shire Council.
It will also help build a new dedicated gymnastics facility, freeing up space at Wallan’s RB Robson Stadium. The stadium is currently shared by tenants Wallan Basketball and Birralee Gymnastics.
Council will need to secure additional funding to complete the gymnastics facility, as well as other planned infrastructure at the site. Council has estimated the total cost of building the Greenhill Recreation Precinct at more than $170 million across three stages.
Mr Frydenberg visited RB Robson Stadium and said while it had served the Wallan community for 40 years, it was clear the town needed to expand its sporting infrastructure.
“It will be a very exciting new sporting precinct for the local area,” he said.
“Engagement with sport is critical not just for people’s physical wellbeing but their mental wellbeing.
“This is one of the fastest-growing parts of Victoria in terms of population growth. That is really stretching some of these community facilities.”
Wallan Basketball president Tracy Connors said the stadium was no longer able to house basketball and gymnastics comfortably.
She said she was worried players might be turned away because of a lack of available space, with junior basketball registrations at record highs post-COVID lockdowns.
“One of the things that has challenged us over the past few years is huge population growth. The population growth has put a lot of strain on our local sporting facilities,” she said.
“We’ve gone from having a one-hour-a-week training session for our juniors back to 15 minutes because there is just not enough court space to allow the required training time.
“Our representative program has gone from being able to use a full court to just half a court. That would be like asking a tennis player to only train between the baseline and the net. It’s just not appropriate for our junior programs to be suffering through lack of court space.”
Mitchell Shire Council deputy mayor Fiona Stevens said council was grateful for the Liberals’ announcement after continuously advocating for the project.
“[The land at] 300 Northern Highway is the future of this area. The council had a vision a number of years ago and purchased this land … and the intention has always been to activate it as a major sporting precinct,” she said.
“The population already is underserviced here and the growth that is coming is phenomenal. We need these sorts of facilities to … keep our communities engaged and keep them healthy.”
Cr Stevens said council was obtaining a geotechnical report and cultural heritage management plan for the site and would be able to start connecting services to the site once they were completed.
“This funding would enable all the services to come to the site, which means it’s then activated and ready to roll,” she said.
“It’s going to be a massive kickstart to this project and we look forward to the site being serviced and the gymnastic facility coming on board.
“We’re at capacity now, and that’s without the growth that’s arriving.”
Cr Stevens called for Labor to match the government’s election pledge to ensure the Greenhill precinct’s future.
Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said he was sceptical of the Coaltion delivering funding for the project in a timely manner if it was re-elected.
“Frustratingly, the Liberal Party has a long history of making road and infrastructure announcements that are simply not delivered,” he said.
“At the last election they promised money for extra lanes on the Hume Highway, as one of the 99 commitments they made in Victoria, that they haven’t delivered.
“We absolutely would welcome the Morrison government delivering even just one of its promises. The announcement is good news but people are understandably sceptical.
“When will this government start delivering on the promises they have already made?”
Liberal candidate for McEwen Richard Welch also announced a Morrison Government, if elected, would allocate more than $2.5 million to Mitchell Shire Council for road upgrades including Taylors Lane, Stanley Street and Darraweit Road.