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Whitfeld’s hidden agenda – update

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public meeting flyer

Whitfield public meeting flyer disguising a hidden agenda

The cat appears to be finally out of the bag. In a Chronicle article, “Whitfield community wish list”, the outcome of Sunday’s meeting is discussed.

The information we didn’t have before is reported thus:

The reserve committee was awarded the ($23,000 State Government grant) funding to undertake a feasibility study into a new community complex to provide a meeting place for the local community, as well as child care, kindergarten and health care services.

So, the hidden agenda is a new community complex located at the Whitfield Recreation Reserve.

There is nothing wrong in that.  Greta has one as does Whoroully – why not one for Whitfield.  The problem is that, in collusion with the Rural City of Wangaratta, the Recreation Reserve Committee of Management led the community to believe that the $100,000 already granted to the community after the bushfires was dependent upon the successful completion of this feasability study. That is not the case. Obviously, if the council can hang onto that $100,000, it would assist in the funding of a new community complex.

A feasability study is only conducted after a plan has been developed and operates under strict terms of reference, in this case being: a new community complex to provide a meeting place for the local community, as well as child care, kindergarten and health care services.

So, why not be up front about it?  Why manufacture a ‘Community Meeting’ purporting to seek input from the community?  It smacks of the ‘Community Meeting’ held two years ago purporting to seek community input into a bus service promised by the State Government.  In that case, the outcome was negotiated between the Department of Transport, the RCoW and O&K Community Health Services.  No consultation was held with the community until we were told of their decision at that community meeting.  The bus service we got was tailored to the needs of O&K Health Services – not those of the community.

Was it a coincidence that O&K Community Health was present last Sunday at this public meeting?

My guess is that an extension to an upgraded Swinburne Pavillion will be built to cater to the child care, kindergarten and health care needs of  the community whilst maintaining the public hall, changerooms and toilets of the existing building.

Wendy Wilson was talking funding of $500,000.  Together with the unencumbered $100,000 already granted and about $250,000 to be realised from the sale of the existing Community Health Centre property (where these services are currently provided), the economic feasability is positive.  A top-up from the Federal government could see the budget reach $1,000,000.

Interestingly the community’s wish list did not include a new community complex. They were much more realistic wanting a children’s playground; walkway along the King River; drainage/stormwater infrastructure; youth activities; and a sealed road between Whitfield and Myrrhee.

The outcome of appointing a volunteer to champion each of the community’s top ten priorities is nothing but a diversion to try and give the community some sense of ownership.  We have done that before when Peter Kenyan, small town development guru, came to town with absolutely no positive result.

Whilst basic infrastructure such as drainage, roadworks and playgrounds are so important to the people of Whitfield, a new community complex worth $1,000,000 could never be justified without an external consultant conducting a feasability study.

So now that we have identified the hidden agenda, we need to find out who is behind this plan for a new community complex. Is it:-

  • The State Government
  • The Rural City of Wangaratta
  • The Recreation Reserve Committee of Management
  • Ovens & King Community Health Services, or
  • An unidentified vested interest.

It certainly is not the Whitfield community!

Written by Greg Naylor

26 July 2008 at 10:00 am

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