Reaffirmed

A Hanging Rock conference centre and accommodation development, proposed in a plan the public has never seen, has Macedon Ranges Council's reaffirmed support.

Council confirmed its position on the Hanging Rock Development and Investment Plan at a special meeting last week.

The master plan maps out a day spa, event space, restaurant, accommodation apartments, conference centre and more, at the East Paddock. At the Rock Reserve, the proposal includes a buggy path, nature adventure area, and meditation area.

A motion to rescind a decision favouring the concept plan, made at the August ordinary meeting, was lost in 5-4 vote last Wednesday night.

Council will proceed with the original motion, which endorses the justification for seeking private investment, and the measures required to achieve it. Council plans to work with the State Government to seek a private investor to realise the plan. Council has also stated its support for this type, size and scale of tourism for the Hanging Rock sites.

The development and investment plan intends to ensure the financial viability of Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock maintenance and operations are barely covered by the Rock's revenue, reports council's economic development and tourism unit.

Council selected private investment as a solution from three 'income generating' options proposed by its officers. The other options were to increase rates, or to hand the Crown Reserve management back to the State Government.

The development and investment plan provided five options, including 'The Do Nothing Approach', and four variations of development proposal.

Cr Jennifer Anderson argued the Rock's inability to financially support itself fails to justify the plan.

"Council operates plenty of things that are not cost neutral, like swimming pools," she said.

"We don't necessarily have to be cost neutral."

Cr Anderson proposed the rescission motion, wanting to ensure councillors were sure of their decision and didn't make it in haste.

She was most concerned about the lack of community consultation on the development and investment plan.

"This is a very big decision. Without consulting the community, letting them know what's going on, we risk making a very big mistake," she said.

"If this is a wonderful opportunity, surely our community will embrace it, come back and say thank you (after a submission process)."

Cr Anderson said the Rock needs to be protected.

"It's an icon to all of us, it's a magical, mysterious place," she said.

Cr Russell Mowatt referenced an old management plan in justifying the community consultation issue.

"To go back and discuss this matter again with the community is going over old ground and goes against the original intent of the 1993 management plan," he said.

"We have a vision for the East Paddock and it has to be sustainable to support the Hanging Rock Reserve without putting our rates up one per cent or $300,000 to support this.

"Of course, as a council we have to be smart about this process and be sensitive about the Rock, but we need to take a leap of faith."

Cr Henry McLaughlin said this is probably the most significant motion he has come across in five years on council. He urged council to consider the other options.