The Mayor Moreland City Council Cr. Samantha Ratnam has expressed disappointment in State Minister for Education James Merlino’s decision to sell only a quarter of the land at the former Ballerrt Mooroop site in Glenroy for the $1 million offered by Council.
The site formerly housed Ballerrt Mooroop College and is the home of a significant ‘spirit tree’. Moreland has worked closely with the Koorie Community since the school closed and has been committed to maintaining the site for public use.
In recent negotiations, Council put three preferred options to the Department of Education to ensure that the site would be preserved for the Koorie and wider community. Those options were:
The State Government gift the land to the community.
The State Government accept the $1 million offer from Council to purchase the entire site
If the asking price for the whole site remained significantly more than the $1 million offer, that Council lease the site until a coalition of groups working through the Wurundjeri Council were able to raise funds to purchase the site.
In addition to the lease costs, Council agreed to provide up to $40,000 to develop a feasibility study to assist the Wurundjeri Council to achieve option three.
In a letter to Moreland City Council, Minister Merlino rejected all three preferred options instead opting to sell approximately 25 per cent of the site to Council for its $1 million offer. The Minster flagged the real likelihood that the remaining land would be disposed of on the private market.
Cr Ratnam said that Council had gone to great lengths to achieve a very different outcome for the community.
We feel that $1 million at a time when the state Government is about to impose a rate cap on Moreland and all other Councils is both a generous and responsible offer.
If the Minister does not see the significance of keeping this land for public use then at least he should take our proposal to give the Wurundjeri Council time to raise the money in another way with partner organisations. We have had other examples of land that was preserved for public use without needing to purchase it, such as the Edgars Creek Land several years ago
Cr Ratnam said.
We urge the Minister to reconsider and do what is necessary to make sure every inch of this highly significant site remains in public hands. We are surprised, given the Andrews Government’s commitment on indigenous issues that this important cause in Moreland has not been met with a more appropriate response.