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Gerringong residents rallied to save their “Old School Park”

The Bugle App

Local Contributor

25 March 2024, 9:30 PM

Gerringong residents rallied to save their “Old School Park”Photo source: It's a Park Life

By Margaret Lester


Twenty years ago, Mary Cronin, now deceased, was an active member of the Gerringong Business Association.  She informed the Business Association that the NSW Education Department was proposing to sell the Department’s remaining portion of the “Old School Park” in the centre of Gerringong. 


It was the former site of Gerringong’s Primary School which was demolished when the new Gerringong Primary School was built.  Plans for the land showed two story development, shops and units resulting in a much smaller open space for the park. 


The “Save our Park” community group was formed with the support of the Gerringong Business Association to save the park from commercial development. On a cold, wet and windy night seventy people attended a meeting at the Gerringong Town Hall to express their concern and disbelief regarding the NSW Education Department’s proposed sale and the development planned for the park land. Residents of all ages addressed the meeting and requested that Kiama Council seek to have the land kept for community use as open space.


Residents in large numbers attended several Kiama Council meetings to voice their concerns. Bright pink balloons printed with “Save Our Park” appeared at rallies in the park and at the Council meetings. Petitions with hundreds of signatures were presented to the Education Department. 


Sandra McCarthy, the Mayor at the time, and the Council’s Town Clerk accompanied two “Save Our Park” members to a meeting with Andrew Refshauge, the Minister for Education and Training, to request that the park land be gifted to the community through Kiama Council, and not be sold to developers. After much discussion, the Minister said he was unable to gift the land but agreed to sell it to Kiama Council for “the Valuer General’s Valuation” and that the land was to be for community use. 

 

The cost of the land was $750,000, equal in value to three blocks in the Elambra Estate which were being sold by Kiama Council at that time. It was nowhere near its commercial value if sold for development. 


Initially, Kiama Council was reluctant to purchase the land for community use sighting competing financial issues. A Community Action Team, comprising of five community members, not politically aligned, was formed and registered in time for the upcoming 2004 Kiama Council elections. Its aim was not only to save the park but also to achieve greater access for residents to Kiama Council and more transparency regarding community concerns and issues. At the time residents were still able to attend and speak at the council meetings.  However, this access was not maintained. 


At the council meeting held just prior to the 2004 council elections Mayor Sandra McCarthy announced that Kiama Council would purchase the land from the NSW Education Department for community use.


Twenty years later Gerringong is being faced with a large development, a four-story hotel with 49 rooms in the main street of Gerringong, backing on to the IGA between the Anglican Church and the Newsagency. 


Are people aware of this new development? Before Christmas there was an objection period of two weeks for people to register any concerns. Was this sufficient time?

Is the future for Gerringong’s main street destined to be three and four story buildings?

Are residents happy with such a future and do they think it will impact on our seaside town?

In the Development Application, the developer argues that the four-story building is actually just a precursor for what Gerringong’s main street will look like in the future. 


Gerringong residents and shopkeepers are expressing their concerns regarding traffic, future tenancy, parking issues, access to the IGA and the proposed development not being in keeping with the streetscape. Who is representing Gerringong’s interest on Kiama Council?  


For years Gerringong’s Precinct Committee, established by Council, has been the vehicle by which the community can express their concerns to council. However, at this point in time the future and effectiveness of local Precint Committees appears to be uncertain. 


In 2004, the Gerringong community rallied to save their park. Since then the “Old School Park” has been fully utilised and enjoyed by residents and visitors to Gerringong. Kiama Council developed the park and built the playground and park furniture. Gerringong Rotary has conducted monthly markets in the park for years.  


Will the amenity of “Old School Park” be impacted by medium density development in the main street? Where is the community engagement for this development? 

Community action can achieve results. It worked twenty years ago to bring about a positive and favourable outcome for Gerringong and the “Old School Park”. Can it work again?