Proposed Evans Head K-12 School
PROPOSED EVANS HEAD K-12 SCHOOL
Mr CAUSLEY (Clarence) [6.22]: I bring to the attention of the House a matter of serious concern to the people of the lower Richmond area in my electorate of Clarence. Ongoing debate has occurred for some time about a K-12 school. Unfortunately it has split the communities of Woodburn and Evans Head. From time to time I have been accused of taking sides in this debate, but I strenuously deny it. I have been trying to determine the best result for the students of the mid-Richmond. At present a K-12 school is located at Woodburn on a site that has limited development potential. Some of the problem may have emanated from a couple of reports, produced by the regional office of education, that did not put forward the facts.
The former cluster director, Mrs Patricia Wilson, wrote a report for the director of the area about the Woodburn school, stating that the site was a small area of approximately 1.02 hectares. In fact, it is 5.679 hectares. Following that report the former Government bought three housing blocks next-door to try to increase the size of the site. The old K-12 school has its problems. It was upgraded substantially by the previous Government to the tune of $1 million. Many schools across New South Wales would be envious of its facilities, which include a dark room and a kiln. A report was written last year by Mr Keith Horton of Keys Young Proprietary Limited, which also misrepresented some of the facts.
The catchment area of the mid-Richmond extends from Coraki up the Bungawalbin Creek, across to New Italy and the Clarence Road, through to Woodburn and down to Broadwater and Evans Head. The majority of students are collected in an area west of Woodburn. Evans Head is east of Woodburn, so it would make very little sense to build a school in that area. The site selected at Evans Head is a State environmental planning policy 14 wetland. I can assure the Minister for Education and Training that he will have an enormous problem if he builds a school on that site. At the first hint of heavy rain it is covered with water. If the site is to be viable, it would have to be filled by at least one half, if not one metre of fill. The site also joins an area of heath, again SEPP 14 wetland. All the reports reveal that an area around the school should be cleared because heath country is a fire hazard.
The decision, which was announced very quickly by the Minister, should be carefully reconsidered. I think he has been influenced by a group of people who, in order to gain some political advantage, formed a branch of the Labor Party at Evans Head. They have lobbied the new Minister fairly quickly to get a decision. He certainly has not spoken to the rest of the community. I can assure him that the rest of the community is up in arms. Parents from Coraki have made it clear that they will not send their children to Evans Head. It is closer for them to go to school at Casino or Lismore. If a school is built at Evans Head, it will be one of the grandest white elephants ever built in this State.
Studies show that 10 to 15 years down the track enough students will live in the area to warrant there being a high school in the region. I have suggested that land adjoining the Roads and Traffic Authority depot south of Woodburn be assessed. I do not seem to be able to get any action from the regional office of the Department of School Education in Lismore. In fact, the study done by Mr Horton from Keys Young ignored that site; yet it is a high site, it is low-value agricultural land and at least 20 to 30 hectares of land is available. It is an eminently suitable site for a future high school. This issue has split the community. The decision announced by the Minister needs to be looked at very carefully. [Time expired.]
Mr AMERY (Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture) [6.27]: The concerns raised today by the honourable member for Clarence - the possibility of a fire hazard, the fact that the school is close to wetlands, parents' concerns and an alternative site - will be taken on board. I will make sure that a copy of the Hansard and the honourable member's contribution are referred to the Minister for Education and Training so that he may respond to the honourable member direct.