By Cam Lucadou-Wells
In what is sure to be a popular backflip, Casey Council has requested a business case to retain Doveton’s historic 50-metre pool.
It came after widespread community uproar against plans to replace the 52-year-old outdoor pool with parkland.
The public had sent a “very, very clear message”, Casey administrator Cameron Boardman told a 14 December council meeting.
Fellow administrator Miguel Belmar successfully moved for a business case for the retention of an outdoor pool with a “year-round accessible” park, including splash play area.
“One issue clear to me is the site is in many respects under-utilised through the year.”
The business case will also explore redeveloping and fencing the outdoor pool, upgrading changerooms and removing the ageing water slides, three smaller pools, Gambetta Room and portable building.
The heritage-listed front building would be retained.
According to a council report, an indoor pool was not feasible in the next 10 years due to the $40 million estimated cost and its proximity to Dandenong Oasis aquatic centre.
Mr Belmar said he was “in no doubt” that “the community has a strong regard and strong belief that a pool is required in Doveton”.
He noted the telling feedback from Doveton College student leaders – who were profoundly in favour of improving the pool.
Administrator chair Noelene Duff said it was now “time to narrow down the options” to “something we can realise and we believe we can deliver”.
The council would also seek funding from state and federal governments to support the project, she said.
In March, furious MPs, community, sports and user groups said they were “blind-sided” by a council officer’s recommendation to replace the outdoor pool with “public open space”.
It prompted further community consultation, which emphatically endorsed keeping the pool.
Despite an allegedly “skewed” community survey and draft concept plan that omitted the outdoor pool, 94 per cent of respondents still nominated retaining the pool under ‘other comments’.
There were reported concerns about low swimming competency, local drownings and young people instead using Eumemmerring Creek.
Among the public’s suggestions were full or partial roofing over the pool, improved heating and changerooms and year-round opening, rather than only opening on 30-degree-plus Celsius days.
In 2019, the then-councillors approved $24 million for upgrading Doveton Pool as a high priority.
However according to a council report in March, the outdoor pool was an “over provision of aquatic facilities and services” for a small local population.
There were sufficient “accessible” facilities at Dandenong Oasis, Casey ARC and Noble Park Aquatic College.
The report rejected a proposal from Doveton College and Our Place to relocate Doveton Library to the site, with a new 25-metre ‘indoor-outdoor’ pool, fitness centre, kitchen, allied health offices and meeting rooms.
On 14 December, Mr Boardman said the report had in “no way” considered the “comprehensive sentiment, attachment and quite significant long-standing expectation of the community”.
Armed with a “comprehensive” business case, he was confident Casey would deliver in the “community’s best interest”.
The Doveton Pool in the Park – the only outdoor pool in Casey – is listed as a locally significant heritage site.
It was built in 1968 after a spate of drownings in Eumemmerring Creek. Residents reportedly raised funds and lobbied Shire of Berwick for the pool.
The council raised extra funds for the project with a charge on industrial ratepayers.
The business case is expected to be presented to council administrators in early 2022.