Sports clubs have their say

Published on 15 September 2014

A high-level meeting in Bendigo next week will be the next step in a concerted effort by Loddon Shire Council to get its new Recreation Strategy exactly right.

The workshop day, planned for next Wednesday (17 Sept.), will see Loddon sports clubs and state sporting associations brought together to discuss local issues, trends and potential solutions.

It follows a preliminary meeting held last week at the Serpentine Bowls Club, convened by Council, which saw 55 representatives of local clubs canvassing the issues of concern to them, as well as what was working well.

Mayor Cr Gavan Holt opened proceedings with his thoughts on the importance of sport in the Loddon community and Council’s strong desire to put together a sound and fruitful Recreation Strategy for the future.

Consultant Wendy Holland, from Bendigo firm Community Vibe, then led the participants through the evening’s program.

Loddon’s sport and recreation facilities encompass football, hockey, netball, lawn bowls, tennis, swimming pools, croquet, water skiing, shooting, golf and walking trails and Council is now working on a whole new Recreation Strategy to take the Shire through to 2020.

The proposed new plan will replace the Shire’s current strategy, which covers the period 2008/2017.

Further community input will be sought through surveys placed in schools, neighbourhood centres and football clubs, using a mail-out, Council’s website and conducting face-to-face interviews.

Manager Community and Recreation Allan Stobaus said Council was making strenuous efforts to gather as much high-quality feedback as it could on how best to support local clubs.

“Since 2008, Council has done a great deal of work and achieved much in the way of improving community facilities, but now believes it’s time to revisit and re-establish its priorities,” Mr Stobaus said.

“In those earlier days, 80% of what Council did tended to be reactive, but now it’s 80% strategic, thanks in no small part to the decision to employ a Recreation Officer.

“At last week’s meeting in Serpentine, club representatives threw up two issues as those causing the most concern – a shortage of juniors and unprecedented strains on volunteers.

“In terms of juniors, Loddon, by itself, simply doesn’t have the numbers of young people coming through to sustain a healthy series of sporting competitions.

“Secondly, clubs rely so heavily on volunteers and the roles and responsibilities they bear are far more complex these days, so we’re looking to determine how best we can support them.

“Other issues identified on the night included water availability for sports grounds, particularly in Wedderburn and Inglewood, the need to better co-ordinate planned events to avoid clashes and the value of support for other clubs’ events.

“It was, however, pleasing for Council to hear participants express their appreciation for the quality of facilities they enjoy and the recent policy of donating oval mowers to selected recreation reserve committees.

The results of these two forums will feed into Loddon Shire’s Recreation Strategy planning, with Community Vibe’s consultation period closing on 27 October.

A draft strategy will then be prepared for Council’s consideration.