By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A community group has slammed Casey Council’s “sham” public consultation about plans to demolish the historic Doveton Pool in the Park.
Doveton Eumemmerring Township Association (DETA) chair Sean Balfour said despite a large public outcry, the council appeared to have already decided to demolish the 53-year-old Olympic-sized outdoor pool.
The council’s $90,000 consultation features a draft concept plan that replaces the pool with parkland.
The plan suggests playgrounds, a water play splash-pad, barbecues and a group shelter on the site.
The council’s online survey excludes a pool from a long list of possible features on the site.
“It’s been a sham. The council has spent money to convince us we don’t need a pool,” Mr Balfour said.
“There’s no mention about how to keep the pool. They’re trying to skew the results.”
Greg Pargeter said a public consultation staged by the council’s consultants on the site on 30 March was barely promoted and so sparsely attended.
“The consultative meeting was not adequately advertised, relying solely on a posting buried within the Casey Council website.
“Alarmingly, the glossy posters of proposed development alternatives did not include the existing pools.
“The communication strategy to engage residents and interested parties in consultation is limited to a proposed restricted letter drop in the Doveton area.”
Mr Pargeter, son of the late Berwick Shire mayor Syd Pargeter who was a driving force in creating the Doveton pool, said it appeared to be a “sham” consultation with a “pre-determined outcome”.
Mr Balfour said the council had put aside its commitment in 2019 for a $24 million upgrade of the pool, bolstered by possible state and federal grants.
Casey Council also dismissed its own steering committee’s recommendation for an indoor pool and community hub created by Our Place and Doveton College.
Such an option would cost up to $40 million, according to the council.
Mr Balfour says: “We’re happy to have two-and-a-half pools with at least one under cover so we can have learn-to-swim lessons and lap swimming all year round.”
Casey council administrators withdrew a motion on 16 March to demolish the pool after being flooded by criticism and an opposing petition of more than 2000 signatures.
They instead opted for the seven-week community consultation, emphasising no decision had yet been made.
A tabled council report recommended an aquatic facility may not be a priority at the site.
Instead there was a shortage of district parkland in Doveton-Eumemmerring, it stated.
The report was based on expert assessments including visitor numbers, seasonal use, the pool’s age and operational and maintenance costs, the council stated.
Casey administrators chair Noelene Duff said: “We acknowledge that there is a great deal of nostalgia associated with the pool.
“However we also know that a significant financial investment will be required at this site over the next few years.
“Therefore, it is important that we consider how the facility is being used today and what will bring the greatest benefit to the entire Casey community in the years to come.”
A Heritage Assessment and expert advice was commissioned to “ensure any proposed redevelopment is respectful of the site’s heritage”.
In the lead-up to the 16 March motion, DETA vigorously opposed the proposed pool closure.
Local MPs Julian Hill, Luke Donnellan and Gabrielle Williams had also voiced concerns.
After the meeting, DETA noted the council hadn’t ruled out an option of replacing the pool.
“We are confident that if a genuine community consultation is undertaken it will reiterate that the ‘No Pool’ proposal is not something the community wants or will accept,” DETA stated.
Public feedback is invited on the council’s Casey Conversations website until Friday 14 May Details: conversations.casey.vic.gov.au.