Not only has the shire council rubber-stamped its support of the Rochester Recreation Reserve management committee project, but it has agreed to tip in $306,000 through next year’s budget — which was adopted at the same meeting.
The project is now fully funded and work is expected to start on the installation of the new lights — which will be 300 lux — at the end of the 2023 Goulburn Valley League season.
Moon Oval lights are currently providing sub-50 lux (illumination) and the new lights will allow the recreation reserve to host not only night football matches, but also cricket.
Three months ago the council voted against supporting a Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) grant of $458,000 — based on the fact, primarily, that it had not historically supported community managed projects on crown land.
The furore that followed that decision, along with the pending application of the reserve’s management committee for a $520,000 Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action flood recovery grant, produced a complete backflip at Tuesday night’s meeting.
A $306,000 commitment was made to the Rochester project and a $180,000 pledge to the Toolleen Recreation Reserve project through shire’s LRCI fund.
Paul Jarman stopped short of extending both arms skyward and exclaiming “let there be light”, but nobody was more surprised than him at the final result of last Tuesday’s Campaspe Shire Council meeting.
Rochester Recreation Reserve committee of management chair Brendan Martin was given a five-minute slot at the meeting to address council.
In his third term as chairman, and being current president of Rochester Cricket Club, he said the recreation reserve had only received a 73 per cent rating at a recent inspection of its facilities by the state’s governing body, with change rooms and lighting rated particularly poor.
He said the committee had worked hard to have the lighting project shovel ready as part of its 2019 strategic plan and 2022 master plan.
“High on that list of priorities was lighting and we want to move the reserve forward,” he said.
“These lights are circa 1975 and so has the electrical network.”
Mr Martin told council his committee’s only expectation was for council to match what the committee of management had contributed to the project.
Director corporate Matt McPherson was invited to respond to Mr Martin’s comments and revealed that it would cost council only $150,000 to complete the shortfall in funding the project.
He said Toolleen Recreation Reserve was in a similar situation, close to receiving a DEECA contribution of its own, but still $180,000 shy of having the funds to complete a netball courts project.
A mid-meeting huddle, where you would need to be a lip reading or body language expert to uncover what was actually said, changed the mood of the room.
Head nodding involved councillor Adrian Weston, against the concept three months ago, making several points to his fellow councillors.
Papers were shuffled, glasses taken on and off, the CEO was seen conferring with directors and Cr Jarman was finally given two pieces of paper and walked back to take his seat at the table.
He then read out a motion suggestion that “in recognition of recent grant funding (DEECA), a change be made” to provide $180,000 through the 2023-24 budget for Toolleen and $150,000 for Rochester lighting.
Then, out of nowhere and in total contrast to her March opposition to supporting the Rochester lighting proposal, Cr Chrissy Weller inquired about providing further funds for the Rochester reserve to meet the requirements for a regional reserve.
To do that infrastructure director Kate Lemon was then welcomed to the microphone and an amendment was made to provide $306,000 from council’s LRCI allocation for 300 lux lighting (instead of the proposed funds for 150 lux lights).
Cr Jarman said both of these projects had been pursued for a number of years, but council had opposed supporting projects on crown land and managed by council.
“The opportunity has presented itself to not only improve the infrastructure at Rochester and Toollen, but do it sooner rather than later,” Cr Jarman said.
“Through the committee’s own work council now has the opportunity to support a motion to have the work done in a very economically efficient way.”
Cr Jarman said with DEECA funding secure the shire could deliver two major projects and there was no reason why we they could not support it.
The elephant in the room was then addressed by Cr Adrian Weston, who said he wanted to articulate a “couple of things that have concerned me fairly recently”.
“In the last decade or so we have taken a view, by and large, not to help or assist community projects managed on crown land,” Cr Weston said.
“It bothered me so much that I did some digging. In 2007 council formed a view and a position that they would fund and assist both council section 86 committees (community managed facilities owned by council), as well as projects on crown land.
“In the absence of any other policy being created since then we should support all of the reserves.
“Council, after all ,is about he three Rs — roads, rates and recreation. It is a moral obligation to support all the reserves, irrespective of how they are managed.
“I hope this is a turning point and from here on in we support all the recreation reserves right across Campaspe.”