WELLINGTON Shire Council organised a special meeting on Thursday, May 16 to hear the public’s response to the Council Budget for 2024/25.

The gallery was looking more empty and decidedly more casual, with in-person attendance by only four councillors. They were Mayor Ian Bye, Northern Ward Councillors Carolyn Crossley and Carmel Ripper, and Coastal Ward Councillor Marcus McKenzie.

Meerlieu Hall Committee of Management

Meelieu residents James Blandford and Jen Smith visited the council to request $380,000 for extensions to the Mark Blandford Pavilion at Meerlieu Hall. The hall also acts as a pavilion for Meerlieu Cricket Club. The hall’s committee seeks to extend the sporting facility capabilities by adding separate male and female changerooms.

The committee also requested $850,000 over three years for asbestos removal, toilet facilities and kitchen upgrades at the hall.

Mr Blandford started a speech explaining that the Meerlieu Hall is possibly the only thing Meerlieu has.

“We don’t have a school, a library, parks, public toilets, waste collection, a pool or a footpath, but we have one highly used community facility,” he said.

“My family have been actively involved in the maintenance of this facility for more than 80 years. My grandfather built the first kitchen and toilets in the 1970s. My father and I renovated the kitchen in the early 2000s; I assisted in the renovation of the cricket pavilion… and then I extended it in 2016 to accommodate two teams.”

Upgrade to non-sporting facilities

Maffra resident Jim King attended the gallery to speak about Wellington Shire’s budget plans, having concerns that nearly all the major upgrades in the region will occur in the sporting facilities, noticeably the upgrades to the Cameron Sporting Complex receiving $920,000 and the Maffra Lawn Tennis Club receiving $365,000.

Mr King believes additional funding should have gone to places like McMillan Rockhounds and the Maffra Men’s Shed.

“Being a Maffra resident, I note that there exists a range of very well-established and modern facilities for sporting clubs,” he said.

“Over recent years, these clubs have received extensive council funding to upgrade their facilities. This is great for the current and future participants who use these venues. However, not all Maffra residents are involved in sporting activities; instead, they rely on more subtle forms of recreation provided by smaller community groups.

“I contend that non-sporting community groups have been left behind by council in relation to serious funding (needed) to upgrade to basic and safe facilities on could owned/managed land in Maffra.”

Mr King added that the Maffra Men’s Shed has built a new shed costing $180,000.

“We got $80,000 from a state (government) grant, and the other $100,000 was raised locally by (town) fundraising efforts,” he said.

“That reflects that our shed is well and truly supported by the local community. We have received minor funding from the council but need a major injection.

“Rather than council budgeting for well-established sporting groups to modernise existing infrastructure, I suggest a temporary suspension of major sporting clubs funding be implemented to enable a complete review of the building works (needed) for small community-based groups in the shire.”