Michelle Ford, the Golden girl of Carss Park, fighting to save her pool of dreams

MICHELLE FORD POOLSIDE PROTEST
POOLSIDE PROTEST: Moscow Olympic golden girl Michelle Ford leading the fight to save her pool of dreams at Carss Park. Photo Courtesy John Veage (The Leader Newspaper).

With the massive debate raging in Australia over the future of Olympic sports funding and a multi-million dollar Federal Government “sports rorts” scandal still raging– another of Sydney’s swimming icons – Carss Park Pool – is about to be washed down the drain.

But not without a fight from its favourite daughter – Olympic golden girl Michelle Ford.

The debate over the “non applied for” $10 million grant to upgrade Australia’s most famous North Sydney Olympic Pool continues to cause waves for Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is under enormous pressure to resign over the disproportionate “under the lap” funding facilities scheme.

HOW NORTH SYDNEY OLYMPIC POOL WON $10 MILLION UPGRADE

SPORTS RORTS SCANDAL

And it comes on top of the expected $1million development funding cut to State Swimming Associations from the Australian Sports Commission to Swimming Australia which Swimming Queensland says could see Olympic future champions lost to the sport.

SWIMMING AT CROSSROADS SAYS QLD BOSS

Now another historic Sydney aquatic centre – Carss Park Pool ironically in Scott Morrison’s own electorate – remains in a fight to save its famous lanes.

Lanes that Australia’s only individual gold medalist from the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Ford, is fighting daily to save.

michelle moscow

DON’T WAVE GOODBYE TO MY POOL: Michelle Ford in Moscow after winning Olympic gold in the 800m freestyle. Now she leads the fight to save her beloved Carss Park Pool. Photo Courtesy: Russ McPhedran (Hanson Media Collection).

Ford, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of her 800m freestyle gold against the might of the East Germans, is in the front line of anther major fight as a key member of the “Rebuilding Carss Park Pool” Action Group.

And the question is being asked in the Sutherland Shire: “Does Georges River Council need its own ‘Sports Rorts’ investigation?

“Why is swimming, which is a major Olympic sport, being discriminated against? And why is Cricket and Golf getting so much investment?” they ask.

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FUTURE CHAMPIONS: People power lining up to save Carss Park Pool. Photo Courtesy: The Leader Newspaper.

Today is the deadline for responses to the Georges River Council’s Draft Regional Aquatic Site Suitability and Feasibility Study.

“It’s the last chance to write to Council telling them we want Carss Park Pool rebuilt on the current site,” says Ford, as passionate as ever to save her pool as she was about representing Australia in two Olympic campaigns.

“One of the number one priorities this newly formed Council should have planned is the business case and funding sources for the redevelopment of Carss Park Pool, to bring it to modern day standards, so as to protect and preserve this existing community asset,” she says.

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LANES OF GOLD: Carss Park Pool, home to so many great Sydney swimming champions. Photo Courtesy: Dick Caine.

“Instead, Council are doing everything they can to NOT rebuild Carss Park Pool, delaying any decision-making by paying external consultants to conduct expensive studies and surveys and developing 6-year timelines for the delivery of a new aquatic facility and ignoring the wishes of the community in the surveys which is overwhelmingly in favour of rebuilding Carss Park Pool at the current site.

“Councils such as City of Gold Coast are delivering an aquatic centre redevelopment at Miami Aquatic Centre for $18m. This redevelopment has everything we need at Carss Park and it is being delivered in 12months.

“On the other hand, in the last 3 years Georges River Council have committed funding or delivered the following golf and cricket projects, without prolonged surveys and business cases: –

  • $6M cricket training facility at Penshurst Park.
  • $2.2m two-storey pavilion at Harold Fraser Oval, a cricket oval.
  • $2.5m for Hurstville Golf Course for a new two-storey Golf Course Pavilion, new greens and pathways.
  • $2.2m for Hurstville Oval for a 2nd pavilion. A cricket oval and cycling velodrome.
  • $177,000 for resurfacing Hurstville Oval’s velodrome
MICHELLE FORD POOLSIDE PROTEST

IT’S A FORD-ABLE: Olympic champion Michelle Ford has told her Council “this is an inspiration, especially for those little faces who aspire to one day represent their country.- Photo Courtesy: John Veage (The Leader Newspaper).

And in another bold call today and reported in “The Leader Newspaper” Ford has told Hurstville Council the community doesn’t care whether a new pool is classified as “ regional or district” they just want a pool to be rebuilt at Carss Park.

Ford says that the Council’s Deputy Mayor Con Hindi had asked the Council for a definition of the two types of pools, district and region, and what was the difference in cost.

A district aquatic centre serves a population of up to 50,000 people, costs up to $35 million, and is between 4,000 square-metres to 6,000sqm in size.

A regional aquatic centre serves a population of more than 100,000, costs up to $60 million, and is between 6,000sqm to 12,000sqm in size.

The categories are described in the Georges River Open Space, Recreation and Community Facilities Strategy 2019-2036 which was unanimously adopted by the council last August.

“These are categories for consultants and bureaucrats, not residents who expect their local council to listen, act and deliver, not confuse with endless surveys, reports and categorisation,” said Ford who addressed the Council this week.

“It matters little to the community yearning for a rebuilt aquatic facility on the existing site whether it be classified as District or Regional,” she said.

Ford trained at the Carss Park Pool under the guidance of legendary coach Dick Caine – who as fought the good fight all his life for his beloved Carss Park – taking babies and toddlers and turning them into champions.

Michelle Ford became the fastest 12-year-old swimmer in the world and at 13 was the youngest swimmer ever to make the Australian Olympic Team for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

“Four years later, after setting two world records and winning many international titles, I made history by being the only non-eastern block female to win Gold at the Moscow games and Australia’s only individual Gold, breaking an eight-year drought,” she said.

“Carss Park Pool was the training grounds of many national and international swimmers. For years, we were the number one swim club in Australia. This means something.

“I was shocked when I heard about the closure of Carss Park Pool, which I believe could have been delayed until the plans were in place for its upgrade and enhancement.”

The Olympic champion has appealed to mayor Kevin Greene in his capacity as a former NSW Sports Minister to remember the sporting heritage of Carss Park pool.

“Carss Park Pool is a sporting museum in itself,” she said. “Mr Mayor as a sporting lover and past Sports Minister of NSW, you would understand what this means.

“Walking through Carss Park Pool, regardless of age, people are reminded of the achievements of our past champions and this is an inspiration, especially for those little faces who aspire to one day represent their country.

“Where will these future champions train? Like I, they too deserve a 50-metre training facility at Carss Park. Why is council making it so difficult? There is a simple solution.

“The present footprint of Carss Park Pool and the adjoining car park, which has been the ideal place, remains the ideal place.

“This site is more than adequate in size to house a 10-lane, 50-metre outdoor pool with 25-metre indoor pool, without encroaching on any playing fields, and with upgraded gym/cafe facilities, that will service our ageing population and the future generations.

“It is not relevant to the community whether the pool is classified regional or district.”

WRITE TO COUNCIL TODAY: THE Rebuilding Carss Park Pool” Action Group.

is encouraging members of the community to write a few short paragraphs in a submission to Georges River Council in response to Council’s Draft Regional Aquatic Site Suitability and Feasibility Study. Submission Deadline is 28th Feb 2020.

Write to Council telling them you want Carss Park Pool rebuilt on the current site, not elsewhere (like Todd Park or Jubilee Stadium that this study recommends). Please CC all GRC Councillors when you send your submission, and if you wish you can cc this email address also (rebuildcarssparkpool@gmail.com).

Please refer to the Rebuild Carss Park Pool flyer for some points you may like to include in your submission. You can also download a Word Doc version of these points to use in your own submission. If you can it is more beneficial to reword this to be a personalised submission.
Send submissions to regionalaquatics@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au or via this online form.

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