By Jessica Anstice
Pakenham Little Athletics Club representatives were brought to tears at the Cardinia Shire Council meeting on Monday following the news that their funding request has been brought forward and is to be included in the forthcoming financial year budget.
The $5.1m all-weather athletics track has been pulled forward three years in replacement of the $4.6m Officer District Park master plan, which has been moved back three years.
“We weren’t expecting it at all – we were sitting in the meeting just gobsmacked. By council bringing the funding forward has blown us away,” Pakenham Little Athletics Club secretary Bel Wouters said.
“We lose members every year to Casey when we do our registrations because the facility that hasn’t been touched for about 25 years. Pakenham is supposed to be the main hub.”
Ms Wouters said the decision means the world to the club and thanks Cardinia Council.
“The Pakenham Little Athletics Club’s facility – as long as I can remember – has remained extremely basic,” Cardinia Deputy Mayor Collin Ross said.
“Their clubhouse couldn’t be called a clubhouse. It is really just a storage shed. You couldn’t describe how poor the toilets are either.
“They are some of the reasons why council considered moving some things around.”
Additionally, the development of the new athletics facility is consistent with the IYU Recreation Reserve masterplan and therefore, council will have an updated detailed design they can use to apply for funding from other levels of government.
“It was a really good move. This group has been so patient,” Cr Ross said.
“You could almost put them in the same ballpark as groups like the Pakenham Auto Club and the Kooweerup Motorcycle Club.
“How would you ever expect to improve anything if it’s the way it was 25 years ago with the competition that’s out there?”
Cr Ross described the state of the facility as “not good enough”.
“With the roads the way they are, why would parents drive their kids out further to join our athletics club? They’d just drive right past it,” he said.
“I know this (funding) will build their club and there are so many kids that will benefit from this.
“It’s an alternate thing – we spend a lot of money on the traditional sports and we need to spin it around so everybody gets some benefits.”
Councillor Brett Owen stated the club is well-utilised but recognised that it is not utilised enough due to the current facilities.
“This will be a regional facility as well. We know we’ve got other athletics clubs in our shire so this new facility will cater for them too,” Cr Owen said.
“The Officer District Park has to be moved back and we know that some people in our community will not like that decision but when you look at the reasons why we made the decision you can see that it is well and truly needed.”