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Executive summary

The purpose of the Great Southern Regional Sport and Recreation Plan is to assist in defining a clear direction for the development of sport and recreation in the region and provide a blueprint  to support this strategy. The plan has been developed following extensive research across the 11 partner local governments. The outcome has resulted in four strategic themes being identified for future planning in the region with regard to the potential impact on sport, physical activity, health, tourism and the economy.

The following recommendations should be implemented over a 20 year timeline, subject to regular and ongoing annual monitoring and evaluation over the project time frame:

  1. Structural review
    • Independent review of all sport specific structures within the Great Southern region and establishment of hierarchy of provision.
    • Establish a coordinating group (task and finish) of regional representatives of all sports with responsibility for interpreting the review recommendations.
  2. Club and volunteer development: alliances, partnerships, training and development
    • Establish a regional sports and recreation officers network/partnership for local governments (operational focus).
  3. Trails, events, economy and tourism
  4. Facility development: sustainable and strategic facility development

The plan pays regard to the aspirations and objectives of each of the 11 local governments:

  • City of Albany
  • Shire of Broomehill-Tambellup
  • Shire of Cranbrook
  • Shire of Denmark
  • Shire of Gnowangerup
  • Shire of Jerramungup
  • Shire of Katanning
  • Shire of Kent
  • Shire of Kojonup
  • Shire of Plantagenet
  • Shire of Woodanilling

These local governments form the Great Southern region as identified within their respective strategic community plans and broader integrated planning frameworks. In addition, a series of strategic plans and regionally significant publications and partnerships underpin the direction and recommendations contained within this plan.

Consistent themes include:

  • A divergence across the region in relation to population growth and decline. The main regional population centres are projecting growth whilst the trend for small remote rural communities is decline.
  • Asset management systems and processes vary significantly across the 11 local governments and there is a need to support a more standardized approach, particularly for those local governments with limited resources.
  • Water management and water re-use will continue to be a significant influencing factor across all local governments.
  • There is a strong commitment across the region for a number of cross boundary projects. These include:
    • The Great Southern Centre for Outdoor Recreation Excellence
    • Development of Centennial Park in Albany
    • The regional motocross venue at Cranbrook
    • An integrated tracks and trails network
    • A consistent approach to the development of a coordinated events plan to underpin tourism and economic development initiatives
    • The development of equine infrastructure. There is however the potential to integrate development more effectively between the City of Albany and shires of Plantagenet, Katanning, Kojonup and Denmark where the majority of regional equine infrastructure and activity is based.
  • The need to provide recreational infrastructure for an ageing community and for the youth.
  • The ability to share learning and develop innovative solutions in facilitating the delivery of sport and recreation programs as well as services and facilities that would benefit those with limited available resources.
  • Co-location and the sharing of resources (particularly with schools) should be a key focus for future investment in sport and recreation assets.
  • Volunteer support and succession planning is a critical concern across most local governments.
  • There is a strong link between investing in maintaining and improving sporting and recreational facilities is highlighted as being of significant benefit to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the regional population.
  • Local governments value the role that strategic alliances play within the region as a mechanism to effectively share resources and provide a stronger voice in promoting the region and providing regional advocacy to attract funding.
  • Access to high quality social infrastructure is consistently highlighted as an area which exiting residents and future migrants actively seek out when deciding to reside in an area.

Targeted consultation with local government partners and State Sporting Associations highlighted the following as key challenges currently experienced and which this plan could assist in addressing. These include:

  • Asset management: the need to ensure all local governments follow a considered and adaptable asset management process which enables future budget planning to be managed effectively.
  • Quality of service: the need to maintain and enhance the current level and quality of service provision within available resources.
  • Consistency of provision: ensuring there is consistency across all sport and recreation services in the level of provision, accessibility and management of infrastructure.
  • Benchmarking and resourcing: continuing to develop appropriate standards/benchmarks which are then adopted and continue to be implemented.
  • Volunteer and club development: the need to support and facilitate good governance and succession planning.
  • Cross boundary developments: the need to continue to foster and develop alliances and partnerships with neighbouring local governments with a view to developing:
    • a regional events strategy
    • shared project implementation strategies
    • shared training and development program
    • sharing of staff and knowledge
  • Asset management by clubs: support will be needed to ensure that effective governance and appropriate sinking funds are committed to sustaining the facility.
  • The role of State Sporting Associations: State Sporting Associations not servicing regional areas effectively.
  • KidSport: there is a need to continue the investment (and potential expansion) of KidSport.
  • General health and wellbeing: drugs, alcohol abuse, mental health and general wellbeing has been identified as a critical issue faced by sports such as Australian Rules Football with limited current intervention measures. A greater focus on the potential role clubs have in this area should be explored.
  • Grant assistance and ongoing financial support: concern over the loss of Royalties for Regions; ability to secure small grants for the ongoing operation and upgrading of key facilities and the over reliance on crop funding to underpin some sporting infrastructure which may not provide a secure long-term solution.
  • Equine development: a considered approach will need to be undertaken for the development of equine infrastructure across the region.
  • Development of youth facilities and activities: the need address a previous lack of investment in youth services and infrastructure.
  • Competition: the loss of clubs and competitive structure and the lack of consistency with competition aligns across sports.
  • Social isolation and loss of an ageing population: there is an ongoing requirement to provide services to keep people well-aged within the community.
  • Shared use and co-location: the potential consolidation and co-location of facility development with existing infrastructure. To reduce costs of servicing and provide a greater localised benefit.
  • Affordability: ensuring that a balance is struck between people’s ability to pay and the level of subsidy desired to maintain the service.
  • Growth in female sport and competition: this is necessitating a different approach to facility design and functionality of sporting infrastructure.
  • Integration with the Aboriginal community: there is a lack of engagement with the Aboriginal community, requiring innovative approaches to the provision of services and programs and greater training of clubs in valuing diversity and increasing accessibility.

The demographic analysis highlights the 45 to 64 year age range as being the predominant age of the resident population across all local government areas with the exception of the Shire of Kent. There are however relatively high percentages of younger children within the regional area associated with young to middle age family units.

The median weekly household income for all local governments in the Great Southern is lower than Western Australia, which highlights, indicatively, a potentially lower capacity to pay for discretionary services. Conversely, however, the Great Southern has a higher proportion of high income households than Western Australia as a whole indicating that there is a strong discrepancy between those who have potentially high levels of disposable incomes and those that do not.

The Aboriginal population base is relatively low and dispersed across the region. In such circumstances, the integration of the Aboriginal community requirements will need to be incorporated within the existing infrastructure and will require ongoing assimilation and training of club volunteers/members in valuing diversity and equity of access. Future growth in the area is likely to be associated with tourism and in particular regional heritage, flora, fauna and accessibility to tracks and trails.

Current trends indicate that for the Great Southern, the following need to be considered:

  • The gradual diminishing role that organised sport is playing in remote regional areas.
  • Cost effective and efficient co-location of infrastructure should underpin the rationale for future investment in infrastructure.
  • Traditional venue specific sports of golf, Australian Rules Football, cricket, bowls and hockey are anticipated to continue to be the main base level of provision within the more remote rural areas.
  • Traditional clubs in regional areas within the main population centres of the City of Albany and Shire of Katanning are likely to provide the main competition bases and therefore the focus will be on providing accessibility to the more remote rural communities for major events.
  • The shires of Plantagenet, Kojonup and Denmark as secondary regional administrative centres are likely to continue to provide the secondary competition venues to be used as feeders for the two main centres.
  • The complex nature of competition structures, particularly associated with Australian Rules Football and the financial expenditure associated with delivering high performing competitive teams (by importing players) is damaging the delivery of sport at the local level.This now needs to be addressed if the long-term viability of clubs is to be secured. This will require the development of different delivery models in partnership with State Sporting Associations.
  • Non-traditional sports clubs which are associated with unique locational characteristics and economic drivers, such as ballistics, equine and motorsport use will be venue specific and are required to service a broader regional population.
  • Due to the strong growth in female participation in traditionally male dominated sports, newly developed facility infrastructure will be required to provide flexible unisex changing and ablution infrastructure to a higher standard which inevitably has significant cost and ongoing asset management implications.
  • The use of school infrastructure should continue to be pursued as a mechanism for offsetting ongoing operational costs and to avoid unnecessary duplication of provision.
  • It is important to prioritise strategic investment across the region and agree how this is to be delivered, funded and sustained.Strategies and relative priorities and support for investment decisions should be developed collaboratively and agreed across all local governments.

The rationale underpinning the strategic directions together with the detailed recommendations, priority, lead organisation, partners and timeline is identified at section seven of the report. Each recommendation is aligned to Strategic Directions 6: Strategic Directions for the Western Australian Sport and Recreation Industry 2016-2020.

By creating this strategic plan, the Great Southern has shown its recognition that sport and recreation is an integral part of creating a liveable region with thriving communities. The challenge will be to keep the momentum going to ensure continuous improvement and responses to community’s needs. Continual review and revision of strategic planning documents, is a vital component of the strategic planning process. Policy makers and planners need to continue the dialogue begun with community and all stakeholders, in order to ensure that their needs and concerns are being addressed. In addition, as new programs and initiatives are implemented in response to this initial planning process, new weaknesses and threats will develop. Hence the need for review and ongoing consultation.

Page reviewed 11 September 2023