New mower a cut above

Published on 13 February 2014

Alan Fidler is a happy man.

No longer does he have to do battle with work equipment which is falling to bits – instead, he has a brand-new machine more than capable of doing the job.

Mr Fidler is curator at the Calivil recreation reserve, responsible for mowing the playing surfaces and surrounds used not only by local sports teams and sporting enthusiasts, but also by a host of visitors.  

Calivil recreation reserve is the first community facility to benefit from a new policy approved by Council last October, under which six major recreation reserves around the Shire will receive new oval mowers over the next three years.

Three other reserve committees have recently bought new mowers and will not be eligible for this funding until well after this time.

The official handover of the new machine – a four-wheel-drive Shibaura CM374 out-front mower, valued at $27,273 – took place this week, led by Loddon Shire Mayor Cr Gavan Holt.

The new policy will lead to grants of up to $35,000 for reserve committees, resultant cost savings for local communities and an easing of the burden on volunteer labour.

It adds to Council’s ongoing approach of making annual financial allocations towards maintenance costs and encouraging committees to apply for extra money through the Community Grants Scheme. 

Loddon Shire’s major reserves cater for competition football, cricket, netball, bowls and, in some cases, hockey and golf.

They are located at Wedderburn, Mitiamo, Inglewood, Serpentine, Newbridge, Pyramid Hill, Calivil, Bridgewater and Boort.

Manager Community and Recreation Allan Stobaus said every reserve committee needed at least one oval mower to maintain its facilities to an appropriate standard.

“The operation, maintenance and ultimate replacement of this equipment represents a substantial part of committees’ overall operating costs,” Mr Stobaus said.

“Of the nine reserves, six will need to buy new mowers within the next three years, while three have recently bought new machines and wouldn’t be expected to require new ones for at least 10 years.

“Council will give each major recreation reserve support of up to $35,000 for a mower, but the committees will be responsible for all operational costs from there on.

“Council has set up a separate account to meet these costs over the identified replacement
period of three years at a cost of $70,000 a year.

“This policy will result in net costs to Council of about $210,000 over the next three years, then around $350,000 every decade thereafter.”

Speaking at the presentation of the new mower at Calivil, Cr Holt said Council had a thorough understanding of the vital part played by sporting clubs in the community. 

“They are part of the social fabric of our communities – the glue that holds them together,” Cr Holt said.
“Council’s commitment to these clubs is demonstrated by the maintenance grants it gives to the Shire’s recreation reserves each year.

“For some time, I have been concerned about the costs to our clubs and committees of management of maintaining their facilities – and mowers have been one of the biggest issues.

“This move by Council will prove a highly significant contribution to our Shire’s recreation facilities.”

Calivil recreation reserve committee president Sue Lea said the gift of the mower was a huge relief.

“We formerly had an old tractor and slasher which was bought second-hand 40 years ago,” she said.

“The slasher had done a magnificent job, but, increasingly, bits were falling off it and having to be welded back on.

“The tennis and bowls clubs have their own equipment, but we still had to cater for the reserve’s use by football and cricket, plus our 18-hole golf course to do in winter.

“At times, when our slasher wasn’t working, we had to borrow a rider mower and local farmers would gladly lend us their slashers, but that wasn’t ideal – often, their equipment was needed for other jobs.

“We’d worked around it, but our repairs and maintenance bill had skyrocketed.  Then, just a week ago, the old machinery literally fell apart.

“This is an absolute gem – we’re just over the moon.  It means we don’t have to fundraise to find the money and we don’t have the maintenance issues we had before.

“We’re very grateful to the Shire – it’s a huge help.”

CAPTION FOR PICTURE:Calivil recreation reserve curator Alan Fidler gets the feel of his new mower, joined by (from left) Cr Cheryl McKinnon, committeeman Lachlan Ralph, president Sue Lea, committeeman  Richard Hicks and Loddon Shire Mayor Cr Gavan Holt.