When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

Wingecarribee Shire Council has announced their intention to renovate the Shire’s ageing Civic Centre today.

General Manager Jason Gordon says the building is in need of some major work:

in its current state the building does not meet numerous modern building codes including accessibility and mobility, environmental, customer and Workplace Health and Safety standards.

Council proposes to spend up to $5million on the work and the documents published on the web hint more work may be required. In other words, the $5million might not be enough to ensure the building can continue to serve it’s purpose. The future of the Moss Vale library, adjacent to the Civic Centre, is raised in the document. It also points to an uncertain future for that part of Moss Vale, given upcoming developments in the area.

For several years, various groups in the Southern Highlands have been fighting a turf war for their pet large infrastructure project, whether a leisure centre, a regional art gallery or a regional theatre. As it stands, Council has decided to put a tin shed roof over Moss Vale pool, which is also adjacent to the Civic Centre, in lieu of a full-blown leisure centre with a 50metre pool. In addition to the pool, library and civic centre, Council owns the Community Oval and other parcels of land on the street. The diagram below shows the approximate extent of this land, highlighted in red.

To spend $5million on an impermanent solution seems foolish. Council could show some vision and leadership and develop a comprehensive proposal meeting all of these needs for now and well into the future. Moss Vale is well supported by rail and road links, and is almost the centre of the Shire. Council could seek an interest free loan from the state and/or federal governments to fund the entire development, and wouldn’t then need to pay an interest-bearing loan. The nearby Community Oval could also be extensively upgraded as part of the work. Examples of the types of loans given by the NSW State Government in the past are available on the NSW Planning website. The Gallery and Theatre administration could be a combined enterprise, reducing costs, while those two ventures themselves have the potential to generate significant income. The leisure centre likewise could attract enough users to be financially viable.

This type of development is much-needed in the shire, and sought by dozens of community groups. Unlike various private plans put forward, it wouldn’t need to be in a green-field site.

The community is fed up with empty promises and pontification – from current and former Councillors – on all of these projects. It’s time the Highlands grows up and builds the facilities the community deserves.