October 14th 2009
Rec Centre decision timing may jeopardize future
A decision by State Minister for Sport and Child Safety, Hon. Phil Reeves, as to whether the Magnetic Island Active Recreation Centre at Picnic Bay will continue to operate, is expected within the next few weeks. But with schools and other community organisations from across the state, desperate to confirm their bookings for 2010, and all bookings refused for 2010 until the review decision has been made, the timing of the decision alone may jeopardize the Centre's future viability.
Principal of Blackheath and Thornborough College in Charters Towers, Mr Brian Hewitt – whose school has been a client of the Centre for many years - told Magnetic Times, “We have to publish calendars and diaries for next year and can't include Magnetic Island. The longer they leave it (the review decision) the less bookings will be possible.”
“We need to be able to book venues and the options are very limited so we need to be booking now.”
After a meeting on Monday with the Minister, State Member for Townsville, Mandy Johnstone told Magnetic Times, “I was very pleased at how receptive he was over our concerns.”
The Centre’s future was put in doubt when it was placed under a trial in May 2008. Since that time it has been under evaluation and operating on a trial basis. The evaluation is scheduled to be completed prior to December 2009.
Sea Cadets were among the many
who stayed at the Centre this year
Magnetic Times understands that over the last year the Centre has increased its numbers by between 30 and 40 percent.
“He couldn't give me a guarentee as the evaluation is not yet completed but I think he really understood the importance of the centre,” said Ms Johnstone.
A spokesperson for Minister Reeves told Magnetic Times: “The Minister is currently waiting to see a report on the viability of the Centre following changes implemented during the trial period, including new activities and programs.
“The Minister is aware of strong community support for this centre to remain open, but must ensure its viability for tax payers.
“A decision is expected within the next few weeks.”
Brian Hewitt - whose students come from as far afield as the Simpson Desert and for whom their visit to the camp is sometimes the first time they have seen the ocean - was devastated when he heard that the Centre might be closed.
“It's the only opportunity for a coastal setting at an affordable price for our students. I hope that the review is being undertaken by someone from out our way. Then there would be no question about the result.
“For my school it's a real travesty. I can't believe it's even being considered.
“It's very important to get rural kids to a coastal setting. They just love it! Some of our senior students got the sensation of salt in their eyes for the first time (at Magnetic Island). They'd only ever swum in dams before.”
“I will be knocking on his (Minister Reeves) door again before the evaluation is complete.” said Mandy Johnstone
“I have recently been lobbied by teachers, employees and local Island residents who were concerned about rumors the facility was going to close.”
“This uncertainty is jeopardizing the situation,” said Ms Johnstone.
“In 2008 when this centre was under threat of closure my predecessor Mike Reynolds fought hard to keep it open.
“I want to assure the centre’s supporters that I will be just as committed to keeping the facility open and operating.
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