Hanging Rock review no picnic


Macedon Ranges council has endorsed its submission to a state government review into the future of Hanging Rock, but not before two councillors slammed the way things have been handled.

A motion to retrospectively endorse the document, submitted by the government’s revised July 31 deadline, was the subject of much debate last Wednesday, with Cr Russell Mowatt displeased about approving something that had already been sent.

The government is reviewing management of the Rock, which the council has managed on behalf of the government for 130 years.

The review was promised by Labor before last year’s state election after community outrage at a failed attempt to develop a resort and conference centre. Possible changes include giving control of the iconic site to Parks Victoria.

The council’s submission defended its management record, citing the Rock’s recent state heritage register listing, the success of concerts in its east paddock, investigation of alternative funding and development of an environmental management plan.

Urging the government to maintain the existing management structure, the council also called for ongoing maintenance funding, and money for a master plan and cultural assessment.

It also made recommendations for a more efficient advisory committee structure.

But Cr Jennifer Anderson described the submission as disappointing, firing off a list of questions she felt had not been answered and questioning the make-up of the Hanging Rock Development Advisory Committee.

‘‘Why didn’t we include Landcare or more environmental experts on the committee?” she asked. “Why are the Hanging Rock finances not dealt with separately to those of council in general?

‘‘Why did we put forward a submission for funding through Regional Development Australia without consulting our community?’’

Cr Anderson wanted the submission to outline the council’s opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of management options and its reasons for past decisions. ‘‘If our community … is unhappy with how council is managing the Rock, we should embrace this and have open discussions about how to improve things.’’

Councillors Roger Jukes, Graham Hackett and John Letchford said the submission had been the subject of a long process to which all councillors had the chance to contribute.

Cr Jukes said various committees had evolved over many years, but the current group played an important role.

Hanging Rock Action Group spokesman Luke Spielvogel shared Cr Anderson’s concerns.

‘‘It’s clear there were a lot of inconsistencies in the submission,’’ he said. ‘‘What I worry is who’s setting the strategic direction in our shire – is it our elected representatives or is it the administration?’’

A listening post was set up in Woodend last week. The review is due to be completed this month, followed by a second investigation into planning provisions.