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Gulmarrad community doing it for themselves

Valley Council staff and councillors in an effort to establish community facilities in the area. “The main theme of the workshop aligned neatly with the number one theme from Clarence Valley Council’s Clarence 2027 – Community Strategic Plan: ‘to create a place where people are healthy, safe and connected’,” says Grace Westera. Image Contributed

Geoff Helisma

When a storm broke during a workshop at Gulmarrad Public School on Sunday December 9 the fresh southerly breeze “was a fitting accompaniment to the refreshing atmosphere of this positive gathering”, says Grace Westera, one of the driving forces behind the Community Facilities for Gulmarrad action group.

There was a good turnout, too, made up of residents, representatives from the school’s P&C, councillors, developers, and volunteers from Lions and Gulmarrad Rural Fire Brigade (48 people).

The results of a survey were discussed, the most important element being the establishment of “a network of community facilities within walking distance of the school” – central to the existing development of the area.

Each of the councillors who attended – the mayor Jim Simmons, Greg Clancy and Peter Ellem – and Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, made positive comments about the group’s activities.

“It impressed me how those committee representatives conducted themselves,” Mr Lindsay said, “they were very professional and with a good understanding of the current situation.”

The rural residential area of Gulmarrad houses around 1,694 people, of which 532 are families – the 2016 Census recorded 445 people aged 19 or younger; made up of 84 aged four and under, 110 aged five to nine, 141 aged 10 to 14 and 110 aged 15 to 19.

The results of a survey distributed to all of the area’s homes reflected these demographics – 16.43 per cent of households, of whom 26 were students from Gulmarrad Public School, completed the survey – with 42 per cent favouring a playground as the top priority.

After which sporting facilities, walking pathways/trails, a community centre and off leash dog area were preferred, in that order.

Gulmarrad’s development control plan 2011 (DCP) identifies the school as “a relatively central location” and notes “there is potential to reinforce this … by encouraging the development of a ‘village core’ through the clustering of future community and commercial facilities in this area”.

On open space, the DCP states a “total of 5.4 hectares is required for the ultimate population of Gulmarrad”, and identifies a site on the northern side of Gulmarrrad Creek “suitable for development as a sporting field and is included in part of the drainage buffer to be purchased by Council”.

Ms Westera said a number of property owners close to the school have offered to negotiate, regarding the provision of land if and when CVC facilitates the necessary changes.

Mr Lindsay said “there’s a lot of work to do from the council’s perspective”.

“The primary objective for council is to make a change that reflects what the community wants – we need to listen … and work hard to try and achieve it – it will [ultimately] be a council[lors’] decision,” he said.

Mayor Jim Simmons concurred with Mr Lindsay’s views and encouraged the group to “continue to work on a proposal to present to council”.

“I’d like to offer a huge thank you to our wonderful Gulmarrad community and public school for making the workshop so successful,” he said.

Councillor Ellem said he was “very impressed by their approach, based on research consultation; it was very professional and respectful of the realities based on the history of area”.

“I’m looking forward to working in partnership with community,” he said.

Councillor Clancy said: “We are keen to give any support we can and to look at the funding opportunities there are; I also encouraged them to pick a site that would not cause any environmental damage.”