Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is campaigning to save the Lakes Entrance rotunda from an ill-conceived East Gippsland Shire Council plan.
Mr Chester said he fully supports the development of a proposed foreshore playground but says Council is about to waste ratepayers’ money on unnecessarily disruptive site works.
“The current plans from Council involve demolishing the rotunda, levelling the existing mound and removing the fish sculpture,” Mr Chester said.
“I’ve repeatedly urged Council to consider moving the proposed playground further to the east and not destroying an existing passive recreation area which is well-used by locals and visitors.”
In a letter to all Councillors eight weeks ago, Mr Chester said he would not support any Federal Government funding being used on the current plan because of several shortcomings. He hasn’t received a reply to his concerns which included:
- The Council plans to demolish the existing rotunda and squeeze the playground into the area which is currently public open space, and is heavily used for markets and family picnics.
- The proposed plan will concentrate more activity on an already busy section of foreshore and place more pressure on the limited car parking which is inadequate at peak times.
- There is room east of the existing rotunda to accommodate the playground and retain enough space for the carnival.
- During the peak holiday period when the carnival operates, there will be a shortage of passive recreation space on the foreshore in the centre of town if the playground is built on the proposed site.
- The current design doesn’t properly incorporate the Krautungalung walk which seeks to redesign the rotunda and feature indigenous story-telling and artwork.
- Rather than remove the rotunda (and then incur the avoidable costs to build a new shelter to replace it), I believe the Council should incorporate a refurbishment of the rotunda in the playground design.
- There’s plenty of space east of the rotunda to place a small toilet block to service the playground, bocce courts and long vehicle parking.
- Consultation to this point has been with a relatively small reference group and the general public is largely unaware that Council intends to demolish the rotunda.
- The proposal to commence construction prior to the peak Christmas period will severely interrupt the enjoyment of the foreshore at a time when we can expect large numbers of visitors. If an alternative site was chosen east of the rotunda, the carnival could still proceed on a slightly smaller footprint, and the existing public open space could still be utilised without any disruption.
- There has been no publicly available cost-benefit analysis of the temporary carnival, it’s impact on other businesses, and the amenity of Lakes Entrance, yet its existence for 12 weeks each year appears to be the driving force behind the decision to place the playground on an existing well-used section of public open space.
- Lakes Entrance is endeavouring to broaden its visitor economy beyond the summer period and a year-round attraction like the foreshore playground should take precedence over a temporary carnival.
- The proposed placement of the playground would seem to restrict further development of infrastructure, such as a pump track, which local residents have raised with my office.
- The development of a ‘pop up bar’ on the corner immediately opposite the existing toilet block does not appear to have been considered in the decision to place a family oriented attraction.
“I would urge Councillors to familiarise themselves with the proposed placement of the playground, undertake an on-site visit, and acquaint themselves with how this section of foreshore is currently utilised before proceeding any further,” Mr Chester said.
“Again, I stress my complete support for investment in quality infrastructure on public land and I have delivered millions of dollars in Federal Government funding to help facilitate projects across the Shire of East Gippsland. However, the proposed siting of this project is an avoidable mistake with long-term consequences for locals and visitors to the region.”