Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood, has called on the Minister for Education to intervene in the sale of the former Hill End Primary School site to ensure it remained available for community use.
Speaking in State Parliament Mr Blackwood said that HECI (Hill End Community Inc.) were already maintaining the site without any support from State or Local Government and that their success in doing so demonstrated just how valuable the site was to the local community.
‘HECI have been a very proactive, self-sufficient group, relying on their own initiative and resources to not only maintain this site on behalf of the department but also strengthening the very fabric of the community,’ said Mr Blackwood.
‘The school building has become the community hub due to the hard work and commitment of the HECI committee, and it hosts regular community events that are well supported by the local and broader community.
‘Australia Day and Anzac Day services are held annually at the school, along with a quarterly market. Every Queen's Birthday weekend the Tanjil Valley Art Show is held. It is very well supported by local exhibitors and large numbers of visitors from right across Gippsland.
‘The site is very clearly of current and continued significant value to the community of Hill End.
Mr Blackwood said that there had been a distinct lack of consultation by the Andrews Labor Government with the community and HECI around the sale of the site and that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning who were responsible for the site also supported it remaining in community hands.
‘HECI have not been consulted at all on the proposed sale of the site.
‘There has been no regard shown for the achievements of HECI in terms of community benefit and maintenance of the former school over the past 10 years.
‘It is very disappointing that no community consultation has taken place regarding the future use of the site in the context of the inherent value to the community provided at the site by HECI.
‘Seventy community members attended a public meeting on Thursday, 18 May, to discuss a response to the state government fast-track planning process.
‘A unanimous resolution was passed by the meeting for the sale of the site to be halted and HECI to be retained as the formal tenant.
‘DELWP Gippsland has indicated its support for the site to remain available for community use under their stewardship.
‘I urge the Minister for Education to remove the school from the fast-track planning process, take it off the government's surplus asset sale list and formally designate the Hill End Primary School site for ongoing community use, managed by HECI on behalf of DELWP,’ Mr Blackwood said.