by Adem Saban
WAVES of applause flooded through the Macedon Ranges Shire Council chambers on Wednesday night, when council unanimously voted to endorse UL Daly Reserve’s Environmental Management Plan, without a footprint for the highly contentious Early Years Hub.
Council also unanimously voted in support of the proposed new site for the hub, at 71 Robertson Street in Gisborne, bringing to end a two year campaign of local community group Friends of Daly Nature Reserve.
South Ward councillors welcomed the decision, all speaking in favour of the move.
Cr Russell Mowatt said he was overwhelmed with council being in a position to put forward an alternative site for the hub, and after extensive community consultation, the reserve was not a suitable site.
“This will be a win, win for the community, by removing the footprint for the Early Years Hub at UL Daly Nature Reserve, and constructing (the facility) in a central location in Gisborne,” Cr Mowatt said.
“I’m hopeful that this new location will get a tick of approval from all stakeholders, and the community at large, so we can now move forward in the knowledge that we are building a better facility and providing improved services for our ever growing Gisborne Regional Centre, now and into the future.”
Cr Sally Piper said it was a great night, now that council had finally voted to not include the hub at the reserve.
“After so much work from the community in collaboration with council, it is a great result,” Cr Piper said.
“We thought this would divide Gisborne, but tonight we can say it hasn’t.”
Cr Piper said the new site was ideal, offering open space, and being close to other services like the Macedon Ranges Health facility.
“And, on the other hand, we have UL Daly Reserve, the jewel in Gisborne’s crown, for future generations to enjoy,” Cr Piper said.
Cr Piper said council had been successful in righting a wrong, and she looked forward to moving forward with a united Gisborne and South Ward.
Cr John Letchford said the decision was a step forward for the community, and congratulated the parents of the region who had been waiting on a kinder for years.
He also applauded the committee and council who had undertaken to find a positive outcome.
“This is a positive outcome for the community at large, the outcome we said we’d look for,” Cr Letchford said.
He asked that while he understands the excitement in checking out the new site, that the community remain respectful of the tenants of the site.
President of Friends of Daly Nature Reserve Helen Radnedge said the group was delighted the reserve was now recognised as a special place, with many values, including historical, aboriginal cultural heritage, remnant native vegetation, habitat, vulnerable plant species, and the neighbourhood town and character.
“All’s well that ends well,” Ms Radnedge said.
“Nature reserves, parks and public open spaces are very important to residents, it is why many of us choose to live in the Macedon Ranges.
“Each one is special to the community, and has different attributes, but all are vital to retain and protect.”
Ms Radnedge said the community is lucky to have UL Daly Reserve in the heart of Gisborne, and the Friends of Daly Nature Reserve are dedicated to ensuring its protection and restoration, so it can be treasured by future generations.
She said this would be achieved in partnership with other community groups.
Moving forward with the hub
The total expected project cost for the new hub at Robertson Street is $3.7 million. Council is currently seeking funding from the Victorian Government, and has allocated $400,000 in its budget towards design and planning for the new centre.
Following a successful expression of interest, council was invited this week to submit a detailed application for a $650,000 New Early Learning Facility grant towards the construction of the centre.
A response to the application is expected in the coming months.
If council is successful, a further $2.3 million will need to be sought through future Council budget processes. Funds will also be obtained through the sale of the Grant Avenue kindergarten site once the new centre is completed.