Shing moves to quash squash fears

Kate Withers

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing has moved to allay fears Latrobe Valley Squash will be left without a home when its facility in Morwell is demolished to make way for the GovHub.

It comes after club members and Naitonals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath last week called on the state government and Latrobe Valley Authority to provide funding for new courts to replace the Church Street facility.

The “plight” of Latrobe Valley Squash gained the support of Ms Melina Bath, who called on the government to “fix the mess”.

“It seems to be incongruous that after decades of being here, 140 people of mixed age levels and abilities, a great club … that [they are] going to be turfed out,” Ms Bath said.

“We’re calling on Daniel Andrews to consult directly with the club … and find a solution.”

However, Ms Shing said she addressed the issue in state parliament last week after it was tabled by Ms Bath and had already “raised [it] with the LVA”.

She also said contractor Castlerock Property had agreed to delay construction of the GovHub past its December schedule.

“As I’ve indicated to the Nationals when they raised this issue, and as the contractor has indicated very clearly to the squash clubs, ongoing use of the premises is something [it] is very happy to facilitate until at least the middle of next year provided that safety in access can be preserved,” Ms Shing said.

“I have proposed the club have discussions with the LVA and council about opportunities to find a suitable home once construction is fully underway for the new GovHub.

“This is far more than the Nationals have ever delivered for the Latrobe Valley.”

The six-court Church Street facility is home to 140 members of the Moe and Morwell squash clubs.

Moe Squash Club committee member Ron Kelly, who has been at the club for 25 years, feared the sport could “die out” in the region if a replacement facility was not established.

“We certainly won’t be able to operate a pennant competition and there will be no formal competition because we don’t have enough courts anywhere else,” Mr Kelly said.

“Basically it spells the end for squash in this part of Victoria.”

Mr Kelly said the only other suitable competition facilities were located in Maffra and Bairnsdale.

“We’ve got enough players that we need a six-court facility and we struggle here with five and have to schedule bye teams every week … so smaller facilities just won’t work,” he said.

“Everyone has gravitated to this place through various circumstances over the years, and now this one is under threat as well, so there’s just nothing left for us.”

LVA chief executive Karen Cain said the Latrobe Valley Authority, Regional Development Victoria and Latrobe City Council were aware of the issues and had been talking to representatives of the squash club using the facility at Morwell to identify a suitable location in the short and long term.

“We look forward to continuing these discussions to ensure the sport continues to thrive in Latrobe Valley,” Ms Cain said.