Councillors unanimously endorsed the region’s inaugural Northern Tasmania Sports Facility Plan at the City of Launceston ordinary council meeting held on the 24th of August.
Developed by recreation open space and sport consultants Ross Planning, the Plan is a collaboration of five Northern Tasmanian local government authorities – the City of Launceston, West Tamar, Meander Valley, Northern Midlands and George Town councils.
Launceston Mayor Matthew Garwood said the Plan is the first step of a long-term planning initiative for all five local government authorities.
“It’s important that there is a focus and a commitment by all those councils to ensure that the long-term needs of our respective communities are catered for,” Mayor Garwood said.
“While it (the Plan) only considers those sports currently operating from Council-owned or Council-managed facilities, these are the sporting codes over which local government in the region can have the most impact, particularly in terms of future investment, future growth or even potential divestment or consolidation of facilities, which may be required moving forward.”
Mayor Garwood said it was important to recognise that the region’s sport and active recreation network was already well provided for, and that most facilities in the study area were considered to be in reasonable condition.
“However, as the plan outlines, there are some areas where there is an identified need for investment and that’s certainly something the City of Launceston will have a focus on,” he said.
Mayor Garwood said two areas of particular focus for the City of Launceston going forward would be the shortfall in basketball and netball courts in the region.
“Anyone involved in either basketball or netball will already know that there simply aren’t enough courts available to cater for their particular competitions,” Mayor Garwood said.
“It’s something that has been acknowledged at both the state and local government level and it’s an issue that we understand needs addressing – not only based on current participation levels but for expected future growth in both sports.”
According to the report, there are currently just five basketball courts available on Council-owned land across the five council regions – an undersupply of 12 when compared with how many are required according to population figures.
Based on projections, by 2036, there will need to be up to 20 courts available to meet expected demand.
Similarly with netball – currently the most popular sport played across Northern Tasmania – there are currently 19 courts available for use, with an undersupply of eight outdoor courts. The report states that by 2036, there will need to be an additional 14 courts available to meet expected growth in participation.
“Both netball and basketball are already at capacity in terms of available courts in Northern Tasmania and unless more courts are available, growth in both sports will be severely restricted,” Mayor Garwood said.
The proposed Northern Suburbs Recreation Hub planned for Mowbray will go some of the way to alleviating those shortfalls.
“Based on the details released by the State Government for that facility, there are expected to be four indoor netball courts and three basketball courts included,” Mayor Garwood said.
“While that will go some of the way to solving the issues we face, there will still need to be further considerations made if we are to meet that expected demand and I would still like to see these based around multi-use.”
In developing the plan, the consultants undertook significant community and key stakeholder engagement, including a survey that resulted in almost 1600 responses, including sporting clubs, associations and peak sporting bodies, as well as a large cohort of individuals involved in sporting activities across the region.
Following the engagement process, a draft copy of the report was circulated to key stakeholders for feedback, which was then considered in the final report.
“There may be a number of clubs and facility users who read this draft report and believe that their needs and priorities may not have been fully captured, however every one of those stakeholders was given an opportunity to have an input into the draft the Councillors endorsed at the meeting,” Mayor Garwood said.
According to the Plan, there has been an emerging trend across Northern Tasmania towards indoor sporting participation, while a number of outdoor sporting competitions have reported steady or decreasing membership.
Not surprisingly, sports such as cricket, soccer, rugby league, AFL and rugby union have all reported increases in female participation.
Mayor Garwood said the surge in female participation meant that all Councils will need to have a much stronger focus on how they provide change rooms as well as more playing and training spaces for the increasing numbers.
Survey respondents also identified those sporting codes with the highest level of participation across all ages and genders – the top eight being netball (25 per cent), basketball (14 per cent), AFL (9 per cent), cricket (9 per cent), soccer (9 per cent), hockey (7 per cent), swimming (6 per cent) and athletics (4 per cent).
Mayor Garwood said that if endorsed, the next phase of the Plan will require Councils to consider the recommendations as part of their future sport and recreation infrastructure planning.
“From Launceston’s perspective, it’s particularly important to acknowledge the role sport plays in our community,” he said. “It’s not just the competitive aspect that has to be considered – it’s also the role it plays in supporting a happy, healthy and engaged community whether that’s through formal or informal activities.
“It’s important that Launceston has the right plans in place to make sure we are committing the right level of resources to the right projects at the appropriate locations and this Plan will certainly allow Councillors to make evidence-based decisions to achieve that for our community.”