SORRENTO Surf Life Saving Club will be given $1 million by Mornington Peninsula Shire, despite accusations it is “jumping the budget queue” at the expense of less-privileged clubs.
Vice-president and treasurer Marc Clavin says the money is an “investment in significant public safety”.
“In comparison to other Mornington Peninsula Shire Council-funded projects, the Sorrento SLSC will prevent drownings, which makes this … application an investment in significant public safety,” he said.
“The current arrangement of storing primary rescue equipment at an off-site location more than half a kilometre away from the beach – combined with challenging traffic issues at peak times – severely reduces the responsiveness of lifesavers on duty and when responding to after-hours emergencies.”
Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club with 570 active members is planning to replace its 2002 clubhouse at the back beach. Financial commitments have been received from the state government, with the shire contributing about 18 per cent of the $5.5 million cost.
Minor improvements to the old clubhouse have been made over the years, but the original design and scale does not cater to the annual 770,000 visitors and higher level of lifesaving capacity and supporting infrastructure required now, especially over summer and public holidays, Mr Clavin said.
He says the club needs better facilities for volunteer training, first-aid and beach patrols, to support, retain and attract new members, new meeting, social and community areas, and better cafe, lounge, change rooms, and toilets.
Cr David Gill said the shire’s budget would be hard hit by the club “jumping the queue”.
“This will affect other projects,” he warned.
“Where does the money come from? We still haven’t had answers from the [council] officers.”
Cr Gill said other clubs “in worse positions” had trouble raising money despite their individual cases were strong. “Portsea and Sorrento are always up there,” he said, referring to the shire providing Portsea Lifesaving Club with a similar amount for its new clubhouse.
Cr Antonella Celi: “This is a fantastic project for net benefit, but how do these projects manage to jump the queue [when the clubs] have the capacity to raise their own money?”
The shire’s corporate strategy and business director Mark Brady told the council the club “provides a valuable service and place for the community and that any such development has many benefits”.
“The club has … strong philanthropic support and [is] now in a position to attract funding from the state government,” he said.
The land was not managed by council and it would not be a council asset.
“Council does have limited funds to invest in capital projects and to support community organisations,” Mr Brady said, admitting the project “would be competing with other priorities, many … the subject of significant strategic planning and on council’s long-term capital works program for some time.”
One such case was Rye Community Group Alliance’s request for money for rubberised flooring at the Rye community playground.
The alliance’s Mechelle Cheers described the council’s decision to allow the lifesaving club to “jump the budget queue” as “incredulous”.
Her group had been trying for years to make the playground accessible to children of all abilities. “Our request is a human rights issue,” Ms Cheers said. “We have tried four times through the formal process and been given nonsensical reasons for rejection even though we tick all the boxes.”
Following Sorrento Surf Lifesaving Club’s successful bid from “out of left field” she said she was sending her submission in again. “I have requested councillors treat [it] in the same way they did the lifesaving club’s bid,” she said.
“I think it is an incredible move given that very few community bids were funded this year. We were told there were no funds available yet [the SSLC] can get special treatment.”
Over the past 10 years, the shire has contributed about $2 million to Life Saving Victoria and lifesaving clubs on the peninsula, including $1 million to the redevelopment of the Portsea Surf Life Saving Club. Money given to lifesaving clubs on the peninsula ranges from $139,000 to Gunnamatta club to $6553 to Mornington.
The $1 million grant, subject to the club raising the rest of the estimated cost, will be paid over the next two financial years.