9 September 2022

Molonglo residents want future high school to be built up, not out

| Lottie Twyford
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Housing development

The Molonglo Valley is growing quickly and residents have raised concerns about a lack of available community facilities. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Molonglo Valley Community Forum (MVCF) is calling on the Territory government to expand the co-design process for the Molonglo Library to include other community facilities, such as the new high school and college.

They say the high school and college will consume the only piece of community land in the Molonglo Group Centre and are worried this will mean the community will remain left out.

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MVCF convenor Ryan Hemsley said the solution proposed by the forum was for the school to be built up rather than sprawling outwards.

“We’re repeatedly told that schools will meet the community’s need for low-cost spaces, but the reality is that the schools just aren’t being designed to accommodate the demand resulting from that undersupply of dedicated land and facilities,” Mr Hemsley said.

“We think that a significantly better outcome could be achieved by going up rather than out, with a slightly taller college building on a narrower footprint, in order to preserve that precious green space for the whole community to enjoy.

” Over the past seven years, we’ve sat and watched as the college site has grown to some 10 hectares, engulfing a nearby community playing field and recreation park.”

Mr Hemsley said the school had grown in size massively – around 11 times – since plans were first drafted.

Dr Marisa Paterson

Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson questioned Minister for Education Yvette Berry on how community feedback would be incorporated into the high school’s design. Photo: Region.

In budget estimates hearings earlier this month, Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson questioned how community feedback would be used in the design and plans for the school.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said she’d heard the group’s initial thoughts and concerns, but she didn’t yet think it was necessary to build upwards in this specific area.

She said there was space and this would be necessary as the school was going to be Year 7 to 12 and on two different campuses.

“Vertical schools would be considered in areas like the city. That’s been the case in other states … where they have been constrained by land supply,” she told the estimates hearings.

“Of course, there isn’t an infinite supply of land in the ACT either, and so we have to be careful. But we also want to ensure our new schools have what they need to have a great learning experience.”

Directorate officials said planning minimised land use as much as possible and the facilities, including the gymnasium, would be open for community use.

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The idea of school builds going up rather than out has been raised previously.

In March, Ms Berry was asked during a committee inquiry if the directorate was forecasting for a future when land constraints were much tighter.

She said it wasn’t yet on the radar but would be considered in the future and it would be more suitable in a high school or college setting than for primary schools.

“It’s definitely something we need to consider as land becomes more finite and more difficult to manage – particularly in higher density areas,” she told the hearing.

The final report from that infrastructure inquiry recommended the directorate consider vertical schools.

An ACT Government spokesperson said the footprint of the college site was currently a matter under consideration as part of the Molonglo Group Centre Technical Amendment to the Territory Plan.

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