Geoff Helisma |
It was a gathering you have when you don’t have a building; it was also a gathering of people whose ultimate aim is to have a building to accommodate said gatherings … and more.
This story of proactive community building began in June 2017, when Laurel Dowling and Grace Westera sent emails to Clarence Valley Council (CVC) and completed a letterbox drop to Gulmarrad’s residents – a gathering on the side of the road last Saturday December 8 was just one part of their campaign.
Subsequently, the Community Facilities for Gulmarrad working group surveyed the community to ascertain its desires.
Next, the group lodged a 42-page presentation with CVC, after which it pitched ideas to the Maclean Lions club, which has donated almost $1,000 towards a park bench, a book swap stand and a property valuation.
In September 2018, CVC agreed to write a letter of support to accompany any submissions the group and its sponsor, Maclean Lions, makes for funding to buy a property near the school for a community centre and playground, however, CVC did not support a “council facility at this location” in its 2018/19 budget.
At the moment, the group is amid the “preliminary phases of acquiring a property by lodging a submission for funding”, spokesperson Grace Westera said.
In the meantime, monthly gatherings will continue on the road verge on February 9 (4pm to 6pm) and then on the second Saturday of each month.
At last Saturday’s gathering, to launch the establishment of a book swap facility, Ms Westera told those gathered: “In a little over a decade, our council predicts that Gulmarrad will have more residents than Maclean … but other than a pathway (and now a bench and a street library), we have nowhere to be a community, no destinations, no playground or park, no community building of any sort.
“Our aim is to acquire property for these.”
Ms Westera welcomed the in-principal support of MPs Chris Gulaptis and Kevin Hogan and CVC’s councillors.
“They have been very supportive, offering encouragement and suggestions,” she said, “but they can’t help us with funds to buy property.
“We also have an outdated council strategic development plan that does not cater for the current residents of Gulmarrad; so we have to work through this by ourselves, by applying for grants – this is a difficult and drawn out process, so please be patient.
“In the meantime, Gulmarrad is going to start being a community by doing things that communities do – even if the only place we have is the road verge.”
She said the ‘street library’ was the third facility the group had achieved, the others being a bench and a pathway.
“The aim of this community facility and every facility that we acquire for ourselves will be all about health,” she said.
“We are passionate about improving community health – both physical and social health … and this book swap library is doing just that.
“Maclean Lions Club is our constant sponsor, but we have asked Carolyn Ardler, from the North Coast Primary Health Networks Healthy Towns project, to officially open the library.
“This is because her Healthy Towns project funded the portable furniture and signage [$1,800] to enable us to start gathering as a community.”