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Geelong leaders demand government make good on games funding

July 19, 2023 8:13 am in by

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GEELONG leaders say they’ll keep pressuring the state government to follow through with infrastructure funding commitments made in the wake of its shock decision to cancel the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Premier Daniel Andrews blamed cost blowouts needed to stage the regional games as the key reason for the call.

“We were pleased to be asked to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games – but not at any price,” he said.

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“I think all Victorians would agree that more than $6 billion is just too much.”

He’s announced the $2 billion set aside to host the event will now be spun off into a regional package that includes a $1 billion Regional Housing Fund to construct 1300 new homes, a substitute of sorts for the athletes villages that were to be used for affordable housing after the games.

The government says further details about the package will be “revealed after consultation” with councils, tourism bodies, sporting codes and the community.

“We’re all a little bit disappointed right now,” Geelong Mayor Trent Sullivan said, adding he was blindsided by the announcement.

“In terms of all the aspiring young athletes we have in our community, the kids, sporting associations, this is something they were all looking forward to.”

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He says there is some good news, money to flow into the region for a new indoor sport complex at Waurn Ponds, an aquatic centre at Armstrong Creek and for the Surf Coast Shire new training pitch’s, seating and pavilion upgrades.

“We at a Geelong council will be working with state government to make sure that’s delivered,” Cr Sullivan said.

The CEO of the Geelong Region Alliance says her organisation will be fighting for a fair share of the regional fund.

“It’s really important that we get this boost because our region needs at least a $1 billion of infrastructure investment to meet the population need,” Giulia Baggio said.

“We want to see these projects listed in the Budget forward estimates and construction timelines honoured.”

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Ms Baggio noted the scrapping of the games was also a lost opportunity to showcase the regions cultural heritage, particularly as it was to feature First Nations culture prominently.

Local tourism boss Tracy Carter says the event cancellation shouldn’t dent Geelong’s growing reputation as an events destination and looked forward to the government’s promise of $150 million tourism and events package

“I think we’re pretty well credentialed already,” she said.

Polwarth MP Richard Riordan poured doubt on the government’s promise to deliver projects for the reason, both when they may arise and their quality.

“Geelong and the people of Armstrong Creek, Torquay and people that like swimming and outdoor activity cannot expect to see these facilities anytime soon,” he said.

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“And of course the spec’ of them will be cut back dramatically as this government seeks to save money.”

Image: In late May South Barwon MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the Games Darren Cheeseman was spruiking progress on works for Armstrong Creek’s aquatic centre, that was to be a games venue (supplied).

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