Media Release 24 August 2007 – Hargreaves Cuts Consultation on Closed School Sites

Save Our Schools today condemned the ACT Government for cutting short the public consultation on the future of closed school sites. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, called on the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services to fulfil his original promise of a 5-month consultation.

“The public consultation process on the closed school sites is now a charade because the Minister has reduced the 2-stage consultation period from 5 months to less than 3 months.

“Last May, Mr. Hargreaves stated that the consultaton period would run from July to the end of November. However, the consultant was only appointed this week, effectively cutting the consultation to about 3 months.

“The Minister is treating the public with contempt. He refuses to apologise for the delay to the start of the consultation, he refuses to extend the timeframe and he resorts to obfuscation under questioning. Yesterday, he blustered is way through questions on the matter in the Legislative Assembly from Deb Foskey, Greens MLA.

“The community has been short-changed by bureaucratic ineptness.”

Mr. Cobbold stated that the tender documents for the closed school site evaluations clearly state that Stage One (the regional consultations) of the process was due to run for 8 weeks from July to September and that Stage Two (the site specific consultations) would run for another 8 weeks from September to November. The consultant is due to provide a final report on 1 December.

“The delay in appointing the consultant and the Minister’s refusal to extend the timeframe means that the whole process is now at risk. Not only is the community consultation cut short but it also calls into question the quality of the analysis to be carried out.

“The evaluation of the future use of closed school sites is a complex process. Not only does it require extensive community consultation but the Surplus Property Policy of the ACT Government also requires a cost-benefit analysis to be prepared for each site identified as surplus and this requirement is reflected in the tender documents.

“For example, the evaluation must assess the economic and social impact in each local area of options for the future use each closed site. This has to be done for each of 21 school sites. It is a very demanding task if it is to be done properly.

“Save Our Schools calls on Mr. Hargreaves to extend the consultation period to full 5 months as he originally promised so as to ensure sufficient time for effective community consultation and a full analysis of the options for each site.”

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