SOS calls for halt on school site sales

Save Our Schools has called for a moratorium on any closed school site modifications, consultations, tenders, demolitions, sales or re-zonings until after the October ACT Election.

“Any final decisions on closed school sites would be premature this close to an election, especially given that consultation to date has been so restrictive,” said Jane Tullis, Save Our Schools spokesperson.

“The Purdons site reports recommend the sale of nearly 60% of the total school site land. This would be a major loss of green space. It is clearly against the expressed wishes of local communities, who should be given a genuine opportunity to respond.

“Three months of consultation is not long enough for communities to investigate, research the full range of options and to truly consult on them before responding to proposals from government and its consultants.

“The Deputy Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, admitted at her press conference last week, that the Stanhope Government has already determined its preferred options for the land use. Clearly Labor will go for the money.

“Analysis of recommendations from Purdon & Associates for all closed school sites shows that the ACT Government could receive approximately $94 million in overall revenue from the sale of closed sites once the proposed ‘consultations’ are completed. This is something the government isn’t publicising.”

Mrs Tullis said that the ACT Government has a track record of sham consultations on school issues. For example:

  • During the Ginninderra District High School consultation in 2005, the public was offered a choice of no school or a super school. Ms Gallagher said at one of those meetings that “consultation begins with a decision”.
  • In the Towards 2020 process in 2006, the ACT government withheld information and refused FOI requests, preventing communities from adequately responding to the plans to close their schools.
  • In 2007, Minister Hargreaves promised a five month consultation on the future use of closed school sites, and instead left communities less than three months to respond to a restricted range of options. The government then took over five months to respond, despite their early claims that communities deserved a prompt answer to these issues.
  • The ACT Government misinformed the public by claiming that the condition of Mount Neighbour and Rivett Primary Schools is “so dilapidated” that they must be demolished. The condition reports have proved otherwise.

“There is no point in conducting meaningless consultations where the community opinions expressed are not going to be properly heeded.

“Given that other candidates standing for the election in October have clearly stated that they would look at re-opening some of the closed schools, the community should be allowed to decide at the ballot box. It would be a monstrous waste of resources to spend even one cent on any consultation, tender, refurbishment, or demolition process only four months out from caretaker government,” said Mrs Tullis.

“Throughout last year’s consultation, communities stated repeatedly that they wanted their school sites retained in whole for local community use, based on locally identified community needs. While communities will most likely enjoy a small BBQ area added to their community assets, such offerings are a meagre substitute for what was once a major community hub.

“It is unfortunate that the Stanhope Government has chosen once more to ignore the stated wishes of local communities. How about the Government proves it can listen for a change?”

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