Sell-off backlash – Leongatha South community upset
LEONGATHA South residents say that a former school site – earmarked for possible sale under South Gippsland Shire Council’s Land Realisation Project – is the community’s, not council’s.
Members of the Leongatha South Progress Association say the former Leongatha South Public School was bought by a local resident for $65,000, with the Woorayl Shire Council (later to become incorporated into the South Gippsland Shire Council) offering little more than a $5000 interest free loan.
But the residents believe records of the sale were destroyed when the councils amalgamated.
Progress association president Jodie Hayward said her group would like to see the school site “completely removed” from the council list of potential properties to be sold.
“This site was purchased by the Shire of Woorayl from the Education Department in two lots for $70,000 on October 1, 1993. On the same day the Shire of Woorayl sold Lot A to an adjoining land holder for $65,000,” she said.
“The remaining $5000 was repaid to the Shire of Woorayl/South Gippsland Shire by the Leongatha South Progress Association in the form of an interest free loan which was repaid in March 2001.”
Ms Hayward said the site – aside from being a weekly meeting place for The Art of Friends artist group and a voting booth for state and federal elections – also featured a memorial, complete with headstone and Ghost Gums for local paralympic skier Michael Norton.
Association member Gordon Vagg said his group had been talking to South Gippsland Shire Council about getting decent toilets at the site for about 10 years. If the toilets came, so too would the potential users of the site, he said.
Ms Hayward concurs: “We’re trying to get more community groups to use it, but then they see the toilets and go: ‘Nah’.”
Another progress association member, Ron Wangman, believes the site would be perfect for a market garden, central as it is to Leongatha, Inverloch and Korumburra.
“That wouldn’t take a lot to get going and providing you’ve got good toilets, it could be a goer. A men’s shed is another idea that I think could work. You could also incorporate a craft shed, increasing its usefulness,” he said.
“With better toilets we can draw more people in, leading to an increase of funds and greater opportunities. It’s too good an area to let go. Land’ s hard to get hold of as far as community groups go and this is a prime example. To let this go to fund debts would be unfair on the community.
“We just want to know that this site is going to stay in the community.”
Members of the artists’ group are also concerned about the sale. Weekly visitors to the site, the group boasts between nine and 10 members.
Di Campbell, a group member, said the “ambience” of the school site was an inspiration.
A South Gippsland Shire Council spokesperson said CEO Tim Tamlin had responded to a letter received from Janine Moscript on behalf of the Leongatha South Progress Association, addressing her concerns.
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=6473