ARARAT- Four Ararat Rural City councillors faced the music last Saturday when around 1500 people rallied to save the Ararat Outdoor Olympic Swimming Pool.
Mayor Cr Ian Wilson and councillors Gary Hull, Gwenda Allgood and Ian Harris spoke to the crowd, and despite whether they were for or against retention of the pool, all spoke with equal passion about their decision. A question and answer session was also held with Cr Wilson fielding questions from the crowd.
Council voted at its September meeting to close and demolish the pool, despite a two year campaign by the community to have the pool reopened and redeveloped.
Cr Ian Harris, who voted for closing the pool, congratulated everyone for coming to the rally and said at the council meeting where the decision was made to close and demolish the pool, each councillor had acknowledged the community effort that went into building the pool and the service it had given to the community.
"However, as a councillor I have to have the confidence to make a decision on the basis of what's best for the entire community. Not just this number of people (at the rally) but 12,000 people across the municipality. If we make a decision that results in a rate rise it is a rate rise for the entire municipality, not just the town, not just one part of the municipality," he said.
"We have had councillors and council staff working with the committee to work out what the options were and by mutual consent we put that to tender and it was on the basis of that tender that council had to make a decision. From my point of view that decision had to be well thought out, had to be carefully thought out, and had to be for the best interests of the entire community and that's why I voted the way I did."
Cr Harris said he could not in all consciousness vote for a facility that was used for only four months of the year and would cost a four per cent rate rise for every ratepayer in the municipality for 10 years.
The issue of a new multi-use facility, similar to one proposed for Kokoda Park a number of years ago, was raised by Cr Harris, but did not receive support from the crowd.
Voting against closing and demolishing the pool at the September council meeting, Cr Gwenda Allgood said she was astounded that the pool was to be demolished and this was why, together with Cr Gary Hull, she lodged a notice of motion to rescind the decision.
Cr Allgood will also put forward a proposal to set up a Section 86 committee of council involving the pool committee, which she said may assist in sourcing funding for the pool.
"We will try this at the next council meeting," she said, inviting all members of the community to attend.
"I've been there and some of you will actually remember where we've had to move the meeting because so many have showed up. I tell you what, as a councillor you really do get a buzz out of that.
"If you've got enough people behind you telling you, as you are this morning, that that's what you want, we want to hear it.
"Because when we put our hands up we believe we are representing the community."
Indicating that pools were crucial to the safety of people, Cr Allgood said her grandfather, cousin and six close friends had all drowned.
"So why would I want to demolish the pool?" she said.
"We have to keep this alive, if you want something you have to keep fighting. If it's worth it you will fight for it. But we have to have you behind us.
"The issue is we would love to see you at the next council meeting to just be there with your feet. You vote with your feet and please do it.
"How would it be if we had to move the meeting to the Performing Arts Centre?"