Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt will bring together a joint state and local taskforce ensure there are adequate sport and recreation facilities for the fast growing southern corridor.

“A similar taskforce was created in 2006 by New Zealand’s Waitakere City Council and the Regional Sports Trust which could serve as a model which could be adapted for our own goals,” Mr Pitt said.

“In the same way we are planning for population growth with the future community at Mt Peter and upgrades to the Bruce Highway and transit network, an integrated and coordinated approach to planning for sport and recreation is also needed between state and local government.

“I believe the best way to progress sporting facilities in the southern corridor is for stakeholders to work together sharing thinking, resources and processes, and utilising each others’ strengths.

Mr Pitt said the Taskforce will facilitate meetings between elected representatives, Sport and Recreation Queensland officers, Cairns Regional Council officers and sporting and community groups.

“This framework would provide a clear focus to progress sporting facilities, sporting activities and pull together funding bids for this fast growing area,” Mr Pitt said.

“It is a mechanism by which all groups can have a say and would also have the added advantage of reducing duplication and other inefficiencies – meaning we can get best bang-for-buck for public money.”

Mr Pitt said that with the recent announcement of a raft of sports funding packages over the next three years it was important all groups were coordinated and prepared prior to applying for funding.

“The Queensland Government has a proud record of investing more funding in sport and recreation than any other state or territory government,” Mr Pitt said.

“The Cairns southern corridor is rapidly expanding. This is a priority area and all stakeholders must be ready to tap into sport and recreation funding.

Mr Pitt said Cairns Regional Council should be congratulated for its investment to set aside green space for future sport and recreation activities.

“Council has spent more than $13 million to safe guard land near Isabella State School at Edmonton and the expansion to the Alley Park precinct at Gordonvale,” Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt said the taskforce is also needed to address current issues, because both levels of government are already struggling to meet the high demand for sporting facilities in the southern corridor.

“Rugby League is one of the largest sport in the region with some 18,000 people involved on any given weekend as players, coaches, administrators and spectators,” Mr Pitt said.

“Edmonton Storm Senior Rugby League play their games at Barlow Park and have had several different training venues.

“The junior feed-in club is bursting at the seams already and with the expected growth in the area, we need to find a permanent home for the senior club in the area near Petersen Park.

“Another rectangular field option would also support the needs of junior soccer in the area.

“I’m working with Cairns Regional Council to explore the options but this is a great example of where the Southern Corridor Sport and Recreation Taskforce would be useful.”

Mr Pitt said the closure of Sugarworld waterslides last month highlighted the limited affordable recreational options in the southern corridor to keep the younger population active and engaged.

“Local facilities like the Edmonton Swimming Pool have served the community well but need to be upgraded,” Mr Pitt said.

“I understand that Council is well-advanced in its planning for an Edmonton Indoor Sports and Aquatic Facility that could be constructed and operational by mid-2011, pending successful applications for funding.

“In Innisfail the local PCYC is doing a great job engaging youth in a range of activities that has a positive impact in reducing juvenile offences. There is a need for similar diversionary activities in the southern suburbs of Cairns.

“With around 30 per cent of the population under the age of 18, I would like to see a PCYC be a key component of the centre at Edmonton.

“The mix of sports and activities however does need to be carefully considered in light of how well utilised other facilities in the area are, such as Fretwell Park, Southside Swallows Gymnastics and the soon to be constructed stadium at Bentley Park College, which will also be available for wider community use.”

Mr Pitt said that while the sport of tennis will be boosted enormously by the completion of the $5.2 million Regional Tennis Centre at North Cairns, Council’s plans to revamp and expand the ageing three courts at Edmonton needs to be considered as soon as possible.

“I attended the Tennis Australia Open Day at the club in February and the level of interest in the sport locally was impressive,” Mr Pitt said.

“When I spoke with Davis Cup Coach John Fitzgerald last Thursday, we agreed that clay courts could be a good option for the rapidly growing club at Edmonton.

“The slower courts would allow juniors to better develop their stroke and would be forced to play a more consistent and strategic game.”

Mr Pitt, himself a keen tennis player and cyclist, is patron of the Edmonton Tennis Club and Innisfail PCYC, and co-patron of the Edmonton Storm Junior Rugby League Club with Cr Paul Gregory.

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