School site central to debate

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

Community action group members want future facilities central not “beyond Bunnings”.

Members of a community action group pushing Moira Shire Council to purchase the former Yarrrawonga Primary School site want to see the prime land used for multiple community facilities including a new library.

Spokesperson for the Yarrawonga Community Action Group formally the Friends of the Community and Town Hall Action Group, Jeanette Wilson said facilities such as a new library, new tourist information centre, a Yarrawonga branch of the historical society museum and even an art gallery would be ideally suited at the now derelict primary school site.

“All of these facilities will be far better used if they are close to Belmore Street, rather than located beyond Bunnings,” Mrs Wilson said.

“The former Primary School site is one block back from Hovell Street, close to Lake Mulwala and is a perfect site for a new library.

“The site offers views of Lake Mulwala, open space and trees.  There would be room for a spacious children’s play area attached to a new library.  Lake Mulwala is one of two key Yarrawonga assets.  The other is our shire/town hall.

“The ex-school site is also ideal for re-location of the tourist information centre, with appropriate parking for caravans and boat trailers, a new home for the yoga society, establishment of a Yarrawonga branch of the historical society museum and an art gallery.  

“Several of the existing buildings could be used for these latter purposes.  The old court house has been well maintained by the Department of Education and should be a draw card for tourists, managed in conjunction with a museum.  The old fire station could have many uses as a multi-purpose building.

“The library has no more reason to be beside the town hall than other users.

 “As the population grows, we would hope to raise funds for a new art gallery on the site.”   

Mrs Wilson believes Hovell Street is the logical “second street” for future commercial development and additional parking.  She said this makes it more logical for the old school site to be used for community facilities and preserving the town hall site for social dance and the performing arts.  

“The complications of integrating the library with the town hall while providing for existing community hall users are immense and very costly, possibly doubling the cost of a new library, plus preventing future opportunities,” Mrs Wilson added.  

“Furthermore, the design and working environment of the new library is compromised in Plans 4B.

“Moira Shire Council has a very strong case to put to Land Use Victoria and through them the Valuer General for the former Yarrawonga State Primary School site to be retained as public land for community use, given the transfer of 11 hectares of Crown land designated for parks and recreation to the Department of Education in exchange for 2.5 hectares comprising the oval and “triangle” of the Years 9 - 12 site of Yarrawonga P-12 College.  Of course, at the time of this transfer, the old primary school site was still being used.”

Mrs Wilson said the Victorian School Building Authority has already briefed Land Use Victoria (the body responsible for the process of re-allocating or disposing of land) on the historical significance of the Crown land parcel to the people of Yarrawonga. 

The process of evaluating the parcel of land on which the school buildings stand is expected to take some time, but the process will involve offering it to council as a first right of refusal.  The final price will be determined by the Valuer-General Victoria and the final decision made by the Minister.

Mrs Wilson said Yarrawonga community members are willing to lobby hard for the transfer of the land for community use.  

“However, only council can make the application.  This is a fantastic opportunity for Yarrawonga and we depend on councillors to take it,” Mrs Wilson said.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Yarrawonga Town Hall Precinct, including the demolition of the community hall have been put on hold while Moira Shire Council explore more details relating to the old Yarrawonga Primary School site.

At councils March ordinary council meeting council paused the development of detailed plans for a new library/community hub on the Yarrawonga town hall site while it undertakes further broad community engagement on the proposal and for an assessment of the former Yarrawonga Primary School site be undertaken to establish whether all or part of the site should be retained for community use.

The Yarrawonga Primary School site was declared surplus for educational purposes following the relocation of students and staff to Yarrawonga P-12 College in 2018.

The former school site includes both Crown land and Department owned land.  If the land is not required by another government agency or the local council, it will be rezoned and progressed to a public sale in accordance with government policy.