12 April 2021

Bungendore's battle of the action groups over high school proposal

| Michael Weaver
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John Barilaro with members of the Bungendore High School Action Group

Member for Monaro John Barilaro discusses the plans with members of the Bungendore High School Action Group. Photo: Supplied.

The battle of the action groups in Bungendore is heating up over the proposed new high school, with the Bungendore High School Action Group and the Bungendore Park Action Group at loggerheads over the site for the school.

This comes as the project last week took another significant step forward, with Hindmarsh Construction named as the contractor for the initial design of the school.

Member for Monaro John Barilaro joined with members of the Bungendore High School Action Group to announce the company had been awarded the contract for the early design of the school.

Mr Barilaro said the naming of a preferred contractor allowed them to be part of the planning process for the school after the NSW Government lodged a Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements application with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in February.

“This is an exciting milestone in the delivery of a new high school for Bungendore, and I’m looking forward to sharing the designs with the community in the near future,” Mr Barilaro said.

“A new high school for this community means updated facilities and the most modern learning spaces for our students that will benefit this community for years to come.”

A group of Bungendore residents standing and sitting on Bungendore Oval in front of the proposed high school site.

Members of the Bungendore Park Action Group. Photo: Angie Angel

However, the project that will see more than 400 children in classrooms for term one in 2023 is still the subject of growing angst in the community, with the Bungendore Park Action Group saying there is huge and passionate opposition in the Bungendore community to the proposed site known as the Majara and Gibraltar Street precinct, adjacent to Mick Sherd Oval.

Bungendore Park Action Group spokesperson Judith Turley said a petition with about 400 signatures had been collected opposing the proposed site.

“In contrast, the Department of Education has claimed support for its proposal – in briefings to the Council, the Minister for Education and to the public – on the basis of 54 responses to a very limited survey it conducted,” Ms Turley said.

The group is also concerned about the loss of space at Bungendore Park, a central place for sport, celebrations, recreation and tourism.

“The Bungendore community is devastated to be losing so much of their Park. There is so much history and so many memories for generations of local people here. It upsets us that Council is betraying our trust like this,” said Ms Turley, a former Palerang councillor before the shire merged with Queanbeyan.

Plan for amenities at the new Bungendore High School

The updated plan for amenities at the new Bungendore High School. Photo: Supplied.

The Bungendore Park Action Group has also maintained the NSW Department of Education has been deliberate in choosing the proposed site for the high school at the request of the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

“This is a decision which has been forced on Bungendore by the Council in Queanbeyan. They suggested this site to the Department of Education and they are relying on the proceeds of selling the Park to cover their revenue shortfall for the coming year,” Ms Turley.

QPRC has already agreed in principle to sell its Bungendore properties, such as the council chambers in Bungendore, the ageing Bungendore Swimming Pool, and Bungendore Community Centre to the NSW Department of Education to make way for the high school.

Some of these facilities are being included in the Bungendore Sports Hub.

READ ALSO Machines move in to start work on Bungendore Sports Hub

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said three submissions were received for proposed locations through the EOI process.

“These were investigated thoroughly and unfortunately, also found to not be suitable for this project,” the spokesperson said. “Following the due diligence process, the Majara/Gibraltar Streets precinct was identified as the most suitable location.”

Community and stakeholder consultation on the proposal will occur after the development application is lodged with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. It is anticipated this will be mid-2021.

It is expected the first sod will be turned before the end of this year.

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Viviean Laycock2:04 pm 25 Apr 21

One more think on this: We are offered one option. We could be offered two but it is still a choice between the two. The New Elmslea Turallo Creek access road was offered as Butmaroo or Turallo. No option for no road. And I now wonder, we know Bugmaroo was preferred but was that possibly because this plan was being floated as long ago as then? If so, those keeping those secrets need applauding as questions have been asked. And whi benefits? Have there been deals done for the trades? The community believed HQJOC would have very little impact as housing was in Gungahlin until Trucking Yard lane got approved and built. And the speed of the sports hub on flood land that the DPE cannot build and not community designed and the 5 grant tennis court upgrade that took out heritage radiatas brought back from the war, is it unreasonable to be suspicious? Fact or fiction? The truth is out there.

Viviean Laycock1:53 pm 25 Apr 21

I must commend the government for being able to keep such planning secrets so quiet that over 5 years plus in the planning, this was not mentioned. Lots of hard work (taxpayer money) to manufacture one plan, excluding all others (no back up? What if something goes wrong? What will be the options for parents?) and years in the making, apparently but no mention of it when the option for a pool upgrade in the current location was suggested. We know commercial operators are very good at having multiple options, buy up land in advance(the supermarket had more than one option, two housing developments on the books), cleared and zoning changes lodged years in advance. Pity the community has no warning.

Interesting to reread all the same old Bungendore FB people coming up with desperate arguments to refute a truthful article. We’ve heard it all in Bungendore: “It’s the old people standing in the way of progress.” Well, maybe YOU are the minority – a few self repeating, insensitive, aggressive individuals who have convinced a politician that his delivery of a Frankenschool will secure their votes. You cant stop for HALF A MINUTE AND CONSIDER THAT IT MAY BE TO EVERYONE’S ADVANTAGE TO HAVE IT MOVED SOMEWHERE ELSE.

savebungendorepark2:05 pm 12 Apr 21

Well said. And it’s really sad to see this pitched as “young vs old”.

It’s incredibly insulting to suggest that our older friends and neighbours, or those without school-aged kids, aren’t valued members of the community and aren’t allowed to have an opinion on such an important issue.

And it’s simply not true that there is such a divide. We’ve have a lot of support to save the Park from people of all ages, with and without kids. And including many who want their kids to attend a local high school but want to see it done properly, in the right place.

“ the Bungendore Park Action Group saying there is huge and passionate opposition in the Bungendore community to the proposed site”
Really? Show us the evidence of this? Such an easy statement to quote, but that doesn’t make it true.

“ Bungendore Park Action Group spokesperson Judith Turley said a petition with about 400 signatures had been collected opposing the proposed site.”
Wrong. In fact, the figure is only 308 for the petition, and it took 7 months to get these signatures, after paid promotion, with some signatories from interstate or outside of our region in NSW – just signing for a mate, perhaps?

savebungendorepark8:52 am 12 Apr 21

What a strange post. There’s a couple of hundred signatures on some A4 pages on my desk, of people with local addresses. Have you been in my house to count them?

And no one’s pushed anything with the petition for months – unless you know more?

Viviean Laycock1:39 pm 25 Apr 21

As far as I know, that is how most of the local elections are won; the property owner who lives somewhere interstate can vote in our elections if they own a property with a rates notice.

I am incredibly disappointed at this article. It is incredibly bias and untrue. The majority of the community are happy with the highschool and its location. The oval will remain a community asset. I am more concerned with Abbeyfield being placed on a tiny block in between the preschool and the Scout Hall.

Maureen Elgood8:02 pm 11 Apr 21

The oval will not remain a community asset. It will be owned by the Dept of Educatin and controlled and maintained by them for the school and at the moment they are saying we will have community access outside school hours

savebungendorepark9:34 pm 11 Apr 21

What’s biased or untrue? The numbers are correct. The opposition is genuine.

No one is opposed to a school but it’s lazy to dismiss a short-sighted quick-fix as “progress”. Anyone genuinely wanting the best for our kids would want a school on an appropriate site, which preserves important parts of the town for everyone and for future generations.

This can be a win/win if we work together, but the Department of Education has offered something that no one can be happy with.

Viviean Laycock1:37 pm 25 Apr 21

I suspect the majority of the community don’t actually care one way or another. Those who already have kids who have left school or have decided to enrol somewhere else are not going to care what happens for a parents with children for a 4 year investment unless they care about the pool, heritage, rates(the community paid for a lot of the assets being ‘transferred’) and the other specifics and many probably don’t have time. The government really don’t care about education either. There are studies on ‘getting the future vote’ and this is a classic method to do it. Just politics and in this case, the children are the pawns.

I’m very disappointed that this reporter didn’t provide a more balanced story.
The Save Bungendore Park group (who as far as I can see is predominantly made up of older residents who no longer have school-aged children, and constantly fight against progress of any sort) continue to claim they have majority support against the proposed site for the high school site. Who is this group? We didn’t vote for them!
I challenge their claims of majority support! In fact in over seven months they have only managed just over 300 signatures on a petition to support their cause. And this only because the petition was incredibly contained misleading and out of date information, to frighten people. This in a population of 4,000 people in Bungendore alone, not to mention the surrounding communities who will also benefit from this high school.
The site for the high school is perfect! It will provide an education hub for the future of this town. The existing oval will be preserved and kids will still have access to it after school and on weekends. We are getting a brilliant new sports hub and a sparkling new swimming pool, not to mention extra tennis courts and playing grounds. And the primary school will be updated and get a new playing ground and community facilities.
A win win all round!

A typical response of denigrate the people involved rather than address the issue! What has age got to do with anything, and what a smear to say that the Bungendore Park Action Group constantly fights against progress of any sort: where’s the evidence for that? The group wants a high school in Bungendore, just not at the expense of heritage and community amenity.
If the site for the high school is perfect, why have >300 people signed a petition against it. I dont think it is ‘perfect’ that the community will lose 24/7 access to the oval and be restricted to weekends and after hours access. If the site is so ‘perfect’ why does Majara street have to be closed with resultant traffic and safety issues as more cars are funneled along residential streets. All of the benefits of having a high school could be realised on an alternative site with more space for students and facilities without having to compromise the existing heritage of the park and surrounds.

Mark. No matter where the school is built, there will need to be traffic and other concessions made by the community, unless of course it is built in the middle of a paddock where it is difficult and dangerous for kids to get to it. Yes, alas people like you will be impacted more than others by traffic changes, but it’s Bungendore, not Sydney – the impacts are not going to be so concerning really IMO.
And in terms of my reference to the Action group members, I am referring to those who are making it their job to constantly spam the entire community with FB posts in support of their own agenda, spouting their own assumptions as facts. Perhaps you’re not on FB so you’re not subjected to it week in week out. Most community members are well and truly fed up!
As far as other members of the group, I have no idea who they are. Hence asking the question in my post above. And how on earth can a group claim to be speaking on behalf of the community when they make claims of majority community support they can’t verify.

Maureen Elgood7:59 pm 11 Apr 21

“Constantly fight against progress of any sort” What a generalised and untrue statement to smear residents who are trying to protect our heritage park. These remarks are made purely to try and dismiss people with a different opinion. You didn’t need to vote for this group as we didn’t need to vote for the high school action group! Yes there is 4000 residents of which 56 voted for the high school on the park. I would not call that figure as representing the community.

Viviean Laycock1:41 pm 25 Apr 21

Has anyone asked the children what THEY want, with an honest balance of the gains and losses. including the loss of the pool, oval to the community and potential desecration of a grave site? I have not seen anything where the kids have been able to have the debate.

Dean Carlson12:29 pm 11 Apr 21

Don’t let a noisy minority say they’re talking on behalf of the town. This school is desperately needed and the proposed site makes sense – it is centrally located, will be located alongside the primary school and other community facilities, and will strengthen the amenity of our town. The doomsday claims being put forward by opponents just don’t stack up and are just a desperate attempt to stop progress. They should instead focus on using the construction of this school as an opportunity to get better community facilities in Bungendore.

Maureen Elgood8:09 pm 11 Apr 21

No one has ever campaigned against a high school n Bungendore. This is not about stopping progress. This is about protecting our heritage assets whilst the town is developing and growing.

I don’t see one comment here arguing against the high school. The only issue being raised and addressed is the location, but you, and others, keep saying people are trying to stop progress instead of ‘protecting their town’.

What a shame.

Kristy Norwood11:03 am 11 Apr 21

I am 100% for the high school and it’s location, as for the park it’s government owned and they will do as they need, if they do decide that they no longer need this park, I’m sure there will be another park built, as for the oval the only changes being brought forward is for extra children to be able to use it in 2023 when the high school is built. I don’t understand all these pages against the high school and saving a park that should be rebuilt to allow more features for family. This save the park is kind of a waste of time since nothing is happening to it. I’m really disappointed to see people in the town don’t want the town to grow or change in any way.

Maureen Elgood8:07 pm 11 Apr 21

The park is not government owned. It s crown land which is dedicated for the purpose of public recreation. the people in town have seen the town grow and grow and grow, these statements just try to dismiss the people who want to protect our heritage park, and why shouldn’t we?

Viviean Laycock1:47 pm 25 Apr 21

It would really depend on how long you have been in Bungendore to know if there actually is an alternative to the park(the research suggests there isn’t with the same amenities) and what the community has had to fight to retain since the first founding families settled. There has always been community negotiation on all community based development but this time, that opportunity has been denied. It is only fair that everyone have a chance to have a say and be seriously heard as most politicians making these decisions do not even live in the area they are affecting and am sure they would object if they felt it necessary if it affected them on THEIR doorstep. There are very viable alternatives but none have been put forward for reasons unknown.

savebungendorepark10:09 pm 10 Apr 21

We should be clear. This isn’t about “us against them”.

Virtually everyone who’s campaigning to save the Park supports a high school in Bungendore. And many of those who’ve fought for the school are also divided between those who want the school at any cost, and those who recognise that this is a terrible plan and there would be much better ways to achieve what they’ve all worked so hard for.

A win/win would be an easily achievable outcome, if only the State Government would listen to the groundswell of community opinion.

Maureen Elgood9:28 pm 10 Apr 21

The dispute is on the high school location. The Community wants and needs a high school but it should not be built on the town’s only park. QPRC are blinded by the exorbitant $12m payout by DoE for the council offices and heritage park that will help pay off the council’s debts. Bungendore is being sold out by predominantly Queanbeyan councillors and also John Barilaro who made a political promise for a high school in Bungendore.
There is a more suitable site with all the infrastructure that DoE require but they have rejected that for the most obscure reasons and opted for our heritage town park which they had already rejected as being unsuitable.

Why would you want to build a prefabricated high school in the middle of Bungendore’s heritage precinct of historic buildings and the park? We will lose our current access to Mick Sherd oval (only be able to access the oval outside of school hours), and traffic and parking will become a nightmare. We need a high school site that gives the community a win/win, not a politically-driven location that destroys public amenity and heritage

Kristy Norwood11:05 am 11 Apr 21

It’s not the community it’s a small amount of people that don’t want it to be there. There are alot of people in the community that want the high school built there. Please don’t use the word community if it’s not the whole of the community, that would suggest your speaking for everyone and as part of our community I strongly disagree with everything you have said

So many of us want a school, but no one wants to lose our town amenity for it.

There are other options, if only council would actually look.

This story is just ripe for a bunch of “first time caller, long time listener” types.

Dianne Lesak11:38 am 10 Apr 21

The construction of a High School for Bungendore is not in dispute. What is disputed is the siting which takes away an important green site, destruction of heritage and much used facilities. There is and was many other more suitable sites that would cater for the long term future growth of Bungendore’s education. The site selected even goes against the Department of Education’s own requirements for a school site. Barilaro and QPRC should hang their head in shame at this out right political driven decision.

savebungendorepark10:26 am 10 Apr 21

Thanks for helping spread the word!

It’s worth remembering that the Department’s “thorough investigations” included ruling out a site on Trucking Yard Lane the basis of a lack of infrastructure, road and pedestrian access – despite the fact that it had dual major road frontage, was on Bungendore’s main cycle path and across the road from a housing estate. So they have zero credibility on this point!

Also – the school won’t be just “adjacent” to the Oval – it will be sitting on top of a large part of it.

And as for turning the first sod this year – tell ’em they’re dreaming. The Development Application won’t be lodged for months, and then it’s a 12 month process to get it through the Independent Planning Commission – and that’s assuming they’re able to get it through at all.

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