THE Toora Community Action Team (TCAT) took its 2020 Community Plan to the South Gippsland Shire on Wednesday February 19, 2020, showing details of five projects designed to benefit the town’s people and visitors, too.
During a 20-minute public presentation, TCAT president Anna Hopkins and vice-president Alex Berry spoke to the shire’s administration panel and senior staff about how local residents, groups and businesses had identified achievable ideas.
The projects include building horse yards near Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT), getting on with the long-awaited BMX track in Sagasser Park, completing Toora’s town loop walking track, extending the Toora Heritage Trail to acknowledge the gold-rush era Chinese burial ground near Muddy Creek, and sealing Foster Road.
Anna, this year’s South Gippsland Shire Australia Day Citizen of the Year, told the gathering how she and “a group of friends [had] created TCAT, with the hope to revive our little town of Toora after our previous progress association had disbanded.
“We started by asking a simple question of the South Gippsland Shire and things snowballed from there,” she said.
“Today we are submitting our 2020 Community Plan in the hope that with the Shire’s help we can start to build our community through the different projects laid out in the plan.
“In our almost three short years of representing our community, we have achieved a few small projects and events, which have helped bring our community together and our many community-based groups have begun to work as a whole,” Anna said.
“To us, Toora is where we grew up, where we live and work and where we have started families of our own; it holds a special place in our hearts.
“We are passionate about our town and we want to display this to the outside world. While we aren’t setting out to make Toora a tourist mecca, we would like to keep people coming back and encouraging some to stay.
“Our town plan reflects what our residents see as important both for tourism and for the general wellbeing of our residents and displays projects of an active outdoor nature that our residents will enjoy, as well as infrastructure projects and the importance of our town’s history.
“We have consulted with all demographics when developing this plan from retirees, families, young adults, teens to businesses and community groups,” Anna said.
“We hope that this afternoon’s presentation underlines the importance of the Shire’s role in getting these projects off the ground and we welcome any help that the Shire is able to offer.”
Alex outlined TCAT’s five “top priority” projects, starting with a set of horse holding yards next to the GSRT to be built on the vacant council-maintained land on the south side of Victoria Street, along from Sagasser Park.
“TCAT, the GSRT committee and several trail-riding clubs have been discussing the need for more horse facilities along the GSRT,” she said.
“This land would be a prime position for the yards as it is within view of the Royal Standard Hotel and would suit riders there for lunch as they will feel secure knowing they can see their animals.”
Alex said the location would also “be close to where floats and vehicles could be conveniently parked in the long car park, and the yards would allow larger riding groups to visit the town and enjoy the businesses and dining that Toora has to offer.
“This facility would also encourage business growth in the future as it would give equine-related businesses an opportunity to use the yards to run riding and dining tours and ultimately lead to expansion and growth for our existing town businesses
“TCAT would be happy to take on the management of the horse yards with help of other town committees such as the Friends of Toora Heritage Pear Orchard who have said they will accept the manure,” she said.
“The construction of the yards would reduce the maintenance cost of that area of land, increase tourism and promote outdoor activity.”
Toora currently has a walking track that runs from the GSRT up Grip Road and along Foster Road, and TCAT wants to extend it to form a complete circuit of the township.
“This track is an asset to Toora, as it is used daily by the locals and it also lets visitors explore our town, but at the moment it only goes around half of Toora and we would love to see it do the full loop from Bucklands Road to Grip Road,” Alex said.
“Currently locals use Bucklands Road, which is unsafe as there is no footpath to walk on and they are using the single lane gravel road with no shoulder instead,” she said.
“Extending the walking track would promote a healthy lifestyle and tourism, however the track itself is not the only hurdle as we also need a new bridge and maybe replace an existing bridge, so we are now exploring quotes from approved shire contractors.”
“Toora has had a BMX track to be built on an area already allotted for it at the back of Sagasser Park on our community plan for a number of years, and TCAT would like to make it a reality,” Alex said.
“This idea has been widely supported by the community, including the Toora Primary School and the Corner Inlet Youth Council, and it reinforces a community goal to encourage outdoor activities for our youth,” she said.
“We are currently in talks with an approved shire contractor regarding construction of this particular project and are confident of its future.”
Chinese burial ground
The Toora and District Family History Group has advised TCAT that during the gold rush Toora had a cemetery on the banks of Muddy Creek, which was later moved out of town closer to Port Franklin.
Unfortunately, not all of the occupants of the cemetery were relocated, with most of the Chinese occupants from during the gold rush era remaining.
Alex said the “story goes that the headstones were pushed into Muddy Creek, and TCAT would like to explore this piece of history further and incorporate it into the Toora Heritage Trail with a memorial site or sign.
“This would be of further importance to our town in the present day as we are home to a significant number of Chinese employees and shareholders at the local ViPlus milk factory.”
Foster Road sealing
TCAT is also lobbying to have Foster Road, which runs parallel to the South Gippsland Highway between Stanley and Mill Streets, sealed to solve the ongoing water runoff problem causing large pot holes, corrugations and channels.
“This section of road services our police station, the chemist and the Catholic church,” Alex said.
“Our main concern is the impact it has on our police station, and our local police officer has brought this section of road to our notice and to the shire’s attention numerous times.
“An increasingly older population use the Catholic Church and the road has become a trip and slip hazard for elderly parishioners,” she said.
“We feel that this section of road would be much more cost effective if it was sealed, primarily due to maintenance costs incurred numerous times throughout the year.”
Anna sand Alex thanked the shire for the chance to present TCAT’s 2020 town plan and stated that “all of these projects require funding.
“We would like to see support from the South Gippsland Shire by adding these projects to the forthcoming 20/21 budget.”