Goalposts move on Bungendore High School site amid overwhelming support

Michael Weaver13 May 2021
Bungendore residents at a meeting at the Bungendore Memorial Hall

Bungendore residents at a community meeting on 28 April discuss the location of the town’s high school. Photo: Supplied.

As workers from Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) moved the goalposts on Mick Sherd Oval further to the west this week in preparation for building the Bungendore High School, debate continues to rage within the community over the proposed site.

While opponents of the site from the Bungendore Park Action Group say the goalposts are literally shifting on the site, proponents say there is overwhelming support for the town’s much-needed high school on what is known as the Majara and Gibraltar Street precinct adjacent to the Bungendore Park.

On 28 April, more than 100 residents from the action group held a community meeting that resolved the proposal to build the high school has been “rushed, deeply flawed and damaging to Bungendore’s heritage and amenity”.

However, during a second meeting this week, organised by the NSW Department of Education, families and residents of Bungendore overwhelmingly supported the high school, which will eventually have more than 400 children in classrooms for term one in 2023.

During the first meeting, the Bungendore Park Action Group again raised its concerns over the proposal. They have continued to label the chosen site a “done deal” since the Member for Monaro, John Barilaro, announced it in August last year.

Member for Monaro John Barilaro

Member for Monaro John Barilaro at the site of the Bungendore High School in August last year. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Bungendore Park Action Group spokesperson Judith Turley said while the group is not opposed to the high school, they condemned the lack of transparency from the NSW Department of Education and QPRC throughout the planning process.

“The selection of this site and the planned high school development has been hastily put together, clouded in secrecy and half-truths, and subject to change with little apparent awareness of the local area, its topography, history and needs,” Ms Turley said.

In the days following the first meeting, the group staged a demonstration outside the Council chambers to further express its disappointment over the proposal, citing issues with traffic congestion due to the closure of Majara Street and the demolition of community assets such as the town’s 30-year-old swimming pool and other facilities.

A QPRC spokesperson said while the sports field at Mick Sherd Oval has been slightly realigned and lighting adjusted closer to the new change rooms, the field will still be used for winter sports and will continue to be available for sports that choose to train and play there out of school hours.

“While the eastern edge of Bungendore Park is proposed to be utilised by NSW Education for the new high school, Mick Sherd Oval will remain in place, as will the expanded change rooms, car park, public toilets, playground, Bungendore War Memorial and nearby tennis courts,” the spokesperson said.

“Bungendore’s new sports hub will complement Mick Sherd Oval with two new rugby ovals, netball courts and amenities.”

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A second meeting, organised by the Education Department on Tuesday (11 May), also attracted large sections of the Bungendore community where many families in the town expressed their support for the much-needed high school.

An Education Department spokesperson said it would continue to engage with the community as the high school evolves.

Bungendore Park will be subdivided and a small portion will be merged into the new high school for Bungendore’s students.

“Bungendore Park will continue to be available for community use, and the Department’s proposal also includes the construction of two new basketball courts within Bungendore Park and a new high school hall that will complement the existing facilities on Bungendore Park. This will be shared between the community and the school students,” the spokesperson said.

Member for Monaro John Barilaro said he had received lots of positive feedback from the local community following this week’s community meeting.

“This is a project that has been talked about for years and the majority of the community is excited that we’re getting on with delivering this commitment,” Mr Barilaro said.

“I’ve spoken to parents and even kids who will be attending this high school and they can’t wait for their new school to open. This high school will be a game-changer for Bungendore and surrounds and will benefit generations to come.”

What's Your Opinion?

2 Responses to Goalposts move on Bungendore High School site amid overwhelming support

Bungendore Park Action Group Bungendore Park Action Group 9:14 pm 13 May 21

The meeting you referred to this week (11 May) was in fact a drop-in information session organised by the Department of Education, and your description of it is quite inaccurate.

A person who attended for most of the time it was open described it as follows:

““We were there for nearly two hours. It really was quite pathetic. They had external consultants there who weren’t prepared to say anything – several of the staff weren’t even from the Department of Education. Virtually everyone who came through opposed it – we were only aware of one person who was supporting any aspect of the plan. There were plenty of people there we hadn’t met before, and many others we knew from the public meeting.

There were police and security in attendance, one armed with a taser! We were interrogated before entering in case we had any protest material, which we didn’t. They didn’t appreciate it when we asked why a peaceful protest would not be permitted. They had been advised that things got heated and someone was spat on last time. We’d never heard of that.

While we were there, everyone we heard speaking opposed losing Bungendore Park. There was no opposition to a high school itself.
They got a bit agitated when we pointed out that the sketch plan they showed was misleading. It showed the area of the school would be about half the size of the railway station carpark. No, they claimed it was accurate and done on the computer.

They had no idea about ensuring adequate parking. What about when there are assemblies with parents attending? They had no answers. All of the illustrations showed no cars and no people.

The plans didn’t show the roundabouts to be installed at the intersections of Gibraltar Street with Butmaroo and Majara Streets.
It was an expensive exercise, but it didn’t give us a voice at all. We were able to tell people what we thought, but nothing was recorded. It was purely about selling the project, rather than listening. They trotted out the same things we’ve heard over and over again, but now with a few more details.

The staff told us that the high schoolers would only use the Oval for PE and official school activities, and not during recess and lunch. So what are the kids supposed to do at lunch time? And of course the public won’t be allowed to use it at these times anyway.
We asked why the school site was below the minimum size standards. They told us they had done their calculations and it would be adequate for 400-450 students. We asked, but they weren’t aware that there are large developments in the pipeline which would add several hundred, if not thousands of houses to Bungendore.

We asked why works are already taking place, ahead of any approvals – like surveys, the football field being moved and so on. They said this was part of the planning process needed to see whether the school could fit on the site at all.

They told us that the off-leash dog area would be reduced to 40% of its current size. So we will be losing well over half of that space.
We asked why they couldn’t build next to the sports hub, which looks like a great site. They didn’t know about that. We asked about Trucking Yard Lane. They told us their job didn’t include knowing or thinking about any of the other sites. And yet they repeated the same old line about the long due diligence process and all the sites that were considered before choosing this one.

They said “the number of people who want a high school far outweighs the number who are against it”. But they weren’t hearing anyone who said “we want a high school but we don’t want it there.” At that was virtually everyone we saw. The fact that we say we are in favour of a high school was all they wanted to hear.

We’re getting fed the same wrong and misleading information over and over again. How they can lie straight in bed, I don’t know. We ask important questions, they go away and think up answers which are all wrong. It’s amazing that some people still actually believe them.”

    Emma Brooks Maher Emma Brooks Maher 6:54 pm 16 Mar 22

    I was at that police-supervised session at Bungendore Public School on 11 May 2021. It wasn’t a ‘survey” – it was supposed to be an “information hub”. As such, it was a big failure. The DoE guys there didn’t know whatall about the local area – not even in terms of school catchment area. Didn’t have a clue about heritage, or traffic patterns, or what the War Memorial means, or even how Mick Sherd Oval gets used. A farce.

    And the ONLY event that could even pretend to be a survey happened in 2020 when DoE asked for response re DESIGN PRINCIPLES that make a good BHS. Nothing about location – repeat NOTHING. The ‘survey” did ask if people liked the idea of a BHS – 74 people answered. Of those, 36% “strongly agreed”, about 25% thought it sounded OK, and the rest didn’t want one. In short- less than 50 people out of a total population now around 4,000 were in favour of “A” High School – not this one, and NEVER about this site.

    It was a farce. It still is.