Page 1872 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 June 2015

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Let me outline what this petition is about. Block 5 section 36 in the division of Forrest is otherwise known as being part of Montgomery oval. For some years—in fact, for decades—this oval, this land, has been part of the school, and the tennis courts that have occupied that space for decades have been managed, maintained, upgraded and generally cared for by generations of parents whose sons and daughters have learnt to play tennis on them.

Six years ago, in order to allay fears of future development of these grounds, the then education minister, Andrew Barr, gave the school an assurance that the land would stay as part of the school. He backed up his promise by gazetting the block as permanent school space, preserved from future urban development.

Fast forward six years, and the first the school community knows about any change is a letter from the principal, who was put in the most uncomfortable position of having to convince her school community about a wonderful gift from the ACT government—the offer of $800,000 for what was originally described as international tennis courts on another part of the school grounds. The fact that the new site already had another sporting purpose seems to have escaped the attention of this education minister.

The Chief Minister then really turned the knife earlier this year by changing the zoning of the land and transferring the lease to the Land Development Agency so that it can be redeveloped. A lifetime of promise for this government is really not much more than six years, it seems. Is it any wonder that the school community—who believed the tennis courts were theirs, who believed that the land on which they sat belonged to the school, who believed that the Chief Minister’s word was to be trusted when he said that he had gazetted the land and that the land would remain with the school permanently—are angry and feel exceedingly let down by the education minister, the former education minister, now Chief Minister, and the ACT government, which is looking the worse for wear after nearly 16 years?

I remind the Assembly that this is a public school that has for years delivered excellence in education, that manages a cohort of some 1,200 students in a mature Canberra suburb, that has every right to believe that its own education minister will stand up for it. This government has failed it miserably—and all in the name of development and revenue. Why else take land from a school that already needs more and dump a childcare centre that has not been asked for on a block of land that is one of the busiest corners in inner south Canberra?

Further, it upset another educational community organisation, the Manuka occasional childcare association, who also had little advance knowledge that their very functional premises were to be resumed for a block of apartments. I wonder just how many residents in Manuka realise that the new Canberra Services Club will be just one little part of a much larger development slap bang in the middle of Manuka. How many storeys? We do not know. How many storeys and what will be built on the old services club site? We do not know. What we do know is that schools are expendable when this government is hunting for revenue. What we do know is that the truth and promises to community groups are expendable when the government decides it needs to cash in valuable land.

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