The battle for Ballina has stepped up a notch with the Labor party promising to make land available for a world-class indoor sports centre in the town.
The commitment follows promises from the Greens to actually build the proposed $15 million centre, which sporting groups have been lobbying the state government for for two decades.
The National Party, whose retiring member Don Page holds the seat, has so far given no commitment, although the Baird government in November last year voted against a Greens motion in favour of building the centre.
The sports centre is seen as a key election issue, along with coal seam gas mining, and has the potential to end the National party’s long hold on the electorate.
Labor candidate Paul Spooner and shadow minister for regional infrastructure Mick Veitch, made the pledge yesterday.
They said Labor would provide a long-term lease at a nominal cost for the Old Council Deport site in Tamarind Drive.
The commitment follows extensive lobbying from the Ballina Basketball Association, Ballina Regional Indoor Sporting Association, Southern Cross School and Ballina Shire Council.
Mr Spooner said the commitment was a win for everyone who had campaigned for the centre, and he took a swipe at retiring MP Don Page.
‘Under the Nationals we’ve waited so long. Don Page was local government minister in this government and couldn’t find a solution for the Ballina Sports Centre. If elected I will be an effective voice for the Ballina community,’ he said.
‘The local community is ready for a new sports centre, local sporting groups are ready, and the local council is prepared – but they need the land.
‘I’m delighted to confirm that a Foley Labor Government will step in to ensure we can go ahead and get this done.’
The Labor announcement follows an earlier Greens commitment to not only donate the land, but also build the centre.
Ballina’s Greens candidate Tamara Smith has been lobbying for the site since November last year, resulting in a notion of motion in state parliament from Greens MP Jeremy Buckinham.
Mr Buckingham said Ballina had waited too long, adding that a new centre could also support the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast as a host venue.
Independent candidate, Ballina shire councillor Jeff Johnson has also been vocal in his support for the centre.
Cr Johnson said the lack of certainty surrounding the location for the Ballina indoor sports centre had stalled the project.
‘Council has allocated the money for the design and development application process, but has been unable to proceed further,’ he said.
‘The depot site would be ideal as it’s a large parcel of land that is no longer being utilised by the NSW Government.’
Meanwhile, Labor announced yesterday that the proposed lease would be for the future construction of a multi-use indoor facility that could host sporting activities and competitions, functions and regional events.
Design possibilities include permanent mezzanine seating, a catered function centre with bar, gym, child minding areas and specialist allied health consulting offices.
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