By Mikayla van Loon
Outraged and shocked is how some Kilsyth residents described their reaction to the permanent closure of the Kilsyth Centenary Pool last month.
Now taking action into their own hands, a newly formed group has started a petition to rebuild a pool on the same Hawthory Road site.
Lead petitioner Janis Floyd was “shocked with the suddenness” of the decision by Yarra Ranges Council and the immediacy of removing the infamous dome.
“That decision within the [aquatic] strategy was pushed forward to a council meeting and ruled upon before people even got to read the strategy itself,” she said.
“The second thing was that when they made that decision on the Tuesday, within three days the [dome] was gone.”
Walling Ward councillor Len Cox also expressed his outrage at the lack of consultation, telling Star Mail he was “disappointed that decision was made”.
“They brought out the aquatic program for the future and they’re getting a response from the public but the main part of that aquatic future was Kilsyth Pool,” he said.
“That was the one part they don’t want the public to give any information on, they don’t want to hear from the public.”
Calling it an “inconsistency” with the council’s overall consultation process, Cr Cox said the “council made a very bad mistake”.
Having been part of the council in the 1980s when the dome infrastructure was constructed, Cr Cox said he was well aware “the pool itself has been going downhill” but it was an important asset to the community.
“It’s been terrific for the public and even up until they [temporarily] closed it six months ago, it still was getting over 100,000 visits a year, which is only marginally less than what the other two indoor pools get,” he said.
Garnering over 450 signatures in a week on the petition, both online and in physical form at the Kilsyth Festival, Ms Floyd said all it asks is for the council to essentially rebuild what existed at the site.
“We want them now to build an upgraded aquatic facility on the pool site and basically, we want to replace the dome with a solid structure, rebuild the 50 metre pool and a dedicated 25 metre pool for people to do their exercise,” she said.
“The petition doesn’t ask to build new gymnasiums, childcare facilities, wellness facilities, cafes, however, in the future, they can because there’s a lot of land there.”
The estimated cost of rebuilding the Kilsyth Pool to a safe standard was said to be $6 million by built environment and infrastructure director Hjalmar Philipp at the Tuesday 24 October council meeting.
“That facility could be built at a relatively low cost in a short timeframe,” Ms Floyd said.
“The council might say, ‘yes, we’ll do it. It’s a 40 year plan’. We want it now and that can’t be emphasised enough. They’ve taken it away now and we want it back now. So we want it prioritised above the Monbulk’s and above the Lilydale’s.
“Because we’re in the urban area, these are the people that use it.”
Cr Cox said the $6 million price tag on rebuilding the pool was “cheap by comparison” to the $90 million proposal for a new aquatics centre in Lilydale.
“That’s the only pool they’ve got. It’s a great shame. For that $6 million, that would have kept that population going for the next 10 or 12 years, until eventually we could build a new one that’s planned to be built at Lilydale but nobody knows where it’s going,” he said.
“It was so inconsiderate for the majority of people living in Kilsyth, Mooroolbark, even parts of Lilydale and even over to Mount Evelyn, it was so thoughtless.”
Around half of the total Yarra Ranges population resides in the urban parts of the shire and will now have to travel to the Yarra Centre in Yarra Junction, Monbulk Aquatic Centre, Croydon Aquahub or Ringwood’s Aquanation.
The petition also encourages the council to invest in clean energy usage and to work towards getting the pool to be carbon neutral.
“If you’ve got something carbon neutral, it can be cash flow positive,” Ms Floyd said.
Planning to leave the petition running for six months, Ms Floyd said the aim is to get 10,000 signatures in that time.
“We want to beat the 150 Cambridge Road petition and we want to get it in a short timeframe,” Ms Floyd said.
Find the petition by going to petitions.net/build_an_upgraded_modern_aquatic_facility_on_the_kilsyth_centenary_pool_site_in_vic