|# Posted: 29 Nov 2008 10:56
Hurlstone's farm is not 'surplus' land
The government has been poorly briefed on this issue, and so is operating with false assumptions.
The wording of the DET announcement was as follows "A maximum of 140 hectares at Hurlstone Agricultural High School will be sold in 2011. The school will retain the 20 hectares currently used for teaching purposes and agricultural study." (emphasis mine)
In other words, the DET seems to think that the school's existing buildings and its existing 'working farm' (and of course the existing memorial forest) occupy merely 20ha of the current 160ha property and that the rest is "surplus" land that can therefore be sold off at no great detriment to the school.
However, this is not the case. The current "working farm" is comprised of all of the available land. It operates as a commercial venture (including an active dairy farm) which provides valuable formal and informal agricultural education for the students.
The sale of the land will be detrimental to the school
The idea that you can sell off over 90% of the working farm and have no impact on the agricultural education of the school is ludicrous.
For a start, the dairy farm would be untenable. Also, the practical, hands-on, experience offered by exposure to a commercial farming enterprise would be lost. Whilst it must be feasible to teach agriculture with only a 'petting' farm, this hardly represents best-practice, and is inconsistent with Hurlstone continuing as a centre of agricultural excellence.
Furthermore, the continuance of the boarding school is under threat. Many current boarders report that the existence of the Hurlstone farm was the key factor in choosing to attend Hurlstone. Without the farm, it is likely that demand for boarding placements would drop off, thereby leading to the eventual closure of the boarding school. The day by day interaction of city and country which Hurlstone uniquely provides its students, would cease to exist.
The sale of the land will be detrimental to the community
While Australia no longer "rides on the sheep's back", its agricultural sector is still a significant contributor to our economy and culture. Hurlstone graduates have had significant inout into that sector at all levels, from production to policy. The sale of the farm would severely lessen the effectiveness of that contribution.
Also, the sale of the land would remove one of the last vestiges of the "green belt" which provides much needed as "breathing" space in the midst of urban sprawl.
Furthermore, the introduction of up to 1200 new houses (along with 1200 more cars, 1200 new students at local schools, etc) would overload the local community which already doesn't have sufficient infrastructure to cope with its existing population.
Quick-fixes are the 'easy' way out
However, our state needs long-term solutions, not short-sighted fiscal quick-fixes. Clearly, any package of land is attractive to a cash-strapped governement. The dollar signs must be flashing large.
The question remains, however: Is the government tough enough to resist the temptation of an easy quick-fix and act in the long-term interests of the state by not flogging off such a valuable educational and environmental asset?