SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is to proceed with the sale of half a dozen surplus blocks of land, but the block at 1 Pioneer Street, Foster, will not be among them. The sales are part of the council’s Strategic Review of Land Holdings and aim to raise much-needed money for the cash-strapped council, which this year, amid howls of protest from ratepayers, raised rates by 6.75 per cent.
A special meeting of the council was held last Wednesday to discuss the strategic review and the proposed sale of the first few blocks of land. Council will proceed with the sale of 6 Attenborough Court, Poowong; 48 Bent Street, Leongatha, 6A Gilfedder Terrace, Mirboo North; 2A Inglis Street, Mirboo North; 91A Whitelaw Street, Meeniyan and 18 Main Street, Buffalo. However, a period of consultation with the public made it clear that there was a lot of community objection to the sale of the Pioneer Street block, which is located across the road from the South Gippsland Secondary College, on the corner of Hoddle Road. Half a dozen written submissions were received by council objecting to the sale, and on the morning of last Wednesday’s meeting Mr Lester Rootsey, who lives diagonally across the road from the block in question, spoke to his submission. He argued eloquently against the sale of the land, which currently presents as a small grassy strip with a pathway running at an angle across it.
Mr Rootsey chiefly objected to the sale of the land because of safety concerns. He said that if the land was sold, presumably to someone wanting to build on it, any construction there would restrict the view obtained by road users in the area – and there are a lot of them, including school bus drivers.
In addition, he said that the footpath had been in place for at least 20 years and was well used. Since one of the objectives of the Strategic Land Review is to “improve public amenity,” taking away a public amenity that had been used by the public for over 20 years, he said, is “bordering on preposterous”.
All the councillors at the meeting (Cr Hill was absent last Wednesday) were unanimous in their support for the objectors to the sale of 1 Pioneer Street.
Cr Jim Fawcett cautioned, however, that though it made eminent sense to withdraw the Pioneer Street block from sale, he was only supporting dropping the sale because of the issue of the line of sight. “We will listen and respond [to the community] when appropriate, but if we don’t move to use our assets wisely we’ll pay the price.”
“We cannot have assets on our books that are of little or no use to the community,” Cr Fawcett continued. “I’m very hopeful that this is the start of an ongoing program to review land holdings and make best use of them. I think we will have some wonderful outcomes and people will see the benefit of that.”