VOTE TO HALT TRANSFER

VOTE TO HALT TRANSFER

MORE than 150 locals have rallied against the transfer of Ocean Grove Park ownership.
Residents packed St Peter’s Church Hall on Sunday and demanded the impending transfer of Ocean Grove Park to the Geelong Council be halted immediately so locals can be fully consulted.
Many went as far as to say they do not wish the park to be owned by the council and that the Trust for Nature should remain its owners.
There are fears that the process is closed to finalisation and that they will have no say. They are mobilising to prevent it going passed the point of no return.
The transfer of ownership is tied up with the proposal to build a performance space at the park.
According to organisers of the meeting, the Trust for Nature is not in favour of running buildings.
Council has agreed to contribute $200,000 towards the fully funded project but only the basis that it takes ownership of the park.
On Sunday, feelings varied from a general distrust of council owning the park to suspicion of an out and out “land grab”.
While some are happy with the idea of a performance space, or at least a more modest structure than has been proposed, the overwhelming majority was opposed to council ownership.
The meeting was opened by John Bowman, one of the town’s strongest advocates for an arts space, who said he had offered support for the performance space and continued to support the idea – but not under council ownership.
“I have written a letter of support for the building of a performance space in the park to help with funding. I wasn’t aware that it would lead to losing the ownership of the park.
“The Trust For Nature ownership is a good model. But they are in the nature business not the entertainment business. I don’t trust council not to ‘Pave paradise and put a parking lot’.”
John opened the meeting up to the floor, and one by one, locals raised their objections to the park ownership issue and or using the park for a performance space.
One woman argued: “With all the density we increasingly need open space. I want to keep it with the Trust that keeps it as a park.”
Local resident Wendy Cover said: “I don’t want a building there”, suggesting Shell Road should be considered for the performance space.
Charlie Dixon said: “We have a small area, we need to keep every inch of it. Everything they (the council) touch they stuff up.
He said: “I love walking through the park.”
Among those attending was Megan Stolz, whose children have grown up, but she described how they are left with so many happy memories of the park when they were young. She said “memories” were an important thing to think about in the importance of the park.
A number of former Ocean Grove Park committee members said they had either resigned because of a lack of consultation or felt their views were not being considered.
Among them was life-long Ocean Grove resident Graham Tribe who insisted that the matter has to be discussed by the wider community before it goes ahead.
Mr Tribe said he had resigned from the park committee because the issue has not been properly debated.
He said he had supported the initial sound shell idea but not the larger 10m-high building.
“It’s disguised as a performance space. It’s really a town hall,” he said.
Those attending passed a motion opposing the transfer of ownership and resolved to form an action committee to fight the proposal.
There was some consternation that no one from the committee was in attendance to put their case.
However, there was also comment that the committee, led by president Colin Atkins, “Should be thanked for the good work they have done at the park”.
The vote against the change of ownership was close to unanimous with a couple of attendees abstaining. No one appeared to support the change of ownership.
Those attending were urged to send their feedback to the council and the state government – via www.geelongaustrlia.com.au and www.premier.vic.gov.au.
The Voice attempted to get a comment from Mr Atkins but did not get a return call before deadline on Sunday.
What do you think? Email the Voice at news@oceangrovevoice.com. See page 8 for letters to the editor.

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