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By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A $75 million plan to upgrade Greater Dandenong’s sports pavilions and lights has been dismissed by a Greater Dandenong councillor as funding “declining” team sports.

Cr Matthew Kirwan, in solely opposing the 25-year sports facilities plan, said the most popular recreational activities were not team sports.

He pointed to the council’s 2015 survey that showed the top five pursuits were walking, swimming, running, cycling and fitness activities.

“Team sports like basketball, soccer and tennis took up spots six, seven and nine and all showed declining participation,” Cr Kirwan said.

“Sports like cricket and AFL don’t even make the top ten.”

The “very expensive” plan would spend about $40 million on 20 pavilion upgrades over 10 years, and $35 million on 49 lighting projects over 25 years.

Cr Kirwan said the council’s earlier recreation strategy prioritised spending on walking, cycling, aquatic centres and leisure centres.

“If you look at our last few budgets we are not proposing $5.4 million a year on walking and cycling.

“No instead we are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, not millions per year.”

Cr Angela Long said the council needed to invest in sport to offer “somewhere for our youth to go rather than create a havoc on the street”.

“Some of our facilities are in need of an upgrade. We could never afford to do all of it at once … by spreading it out at $4 million a year is quite adequate.”

Through sport, young people learnt to be a “team player”, learnt respect and learnt to appreciate community facilities.

Cr Jim Memeti said “tens of thousands” of people were using a multitude of Greater Dandenong sports fields, including 38 cricket grounds, 29 soccer pitches and 22 netball courts.

The sports clubs were vital to the upbringing of children and bringing large groups together, he said.

The council was spending more on swimming than the other sports “put together” – including $27 million on Noble Park Aquatic Centre and the mooted – but as yet uncommitted – $60 million Dandenong Oasis replacement, he said.

Corporate services director Mick Jaensch said the council had spent about the same $4 million annual amount on pavilion upgrades for the past five years.

The council would also seek state and federal funds for the projects, he said.

Cr Kirwan later said the “team sport argument is a bit last century”.

“The research shows that is not what kids want.

“Go down to Hemmings Park in Dandenong any day and you will see plenty of kids skateboarding, BMX biking, playing casual soccer.”

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