Your correspondent Patrick Bell as chair of Tourism Macedon Ranges ('Rock proposal positive', Express, September 24, 2013) is disingenuous in his remarks supporting Macedon Ranges Shire Council's proposed development of the Hanging Rock precinct. Far from "applauding council's decision to open a conversation with the community if a development application is received...", he should be deploring the council's decision to eliminate community consultation and deny the public any say when it voted 5-4 in favour of its plan to identify and invite private development to build a conference centre, accommodation facility and 'creek apartments', stage and event structure, and day spa in the East paddock, plus yoga and adventure facilities on the actual Rock.
A groundswell from concerned and often outraged community members started with an online petition (which is heading for 4000 signatures in less than two weeks -
), and has resulted in the formation of the Hanging Rock Action Group (HRAG), an alliance of community groups and individuals.
HRAG wants to convince MRSC to abide by its own Community Consultation Framework to ascertain community attitudes and opinion. It could do this by sponsoring public meetings and notifying all Macedon Ranges residents of its plans before acting. The group will work with MRSC to distil the issues behind options for the future of Hanging Rock to ensure that fully considered decisions are made based on facts and evidence - which are not made clear in two information bulletins since issued by the council (on their website). Consulting the community after development applications are received is simply not on, and P Bell is all too obvious in his elegy to tourism - if Hanging Rock Reserve makes "in excess of $14 million" why the rush to turn an international icon loved for its wildness and mystery into just another resort to raise a perceived and unsubstantiated revenue shortfall of $300,000? Stay tuned for lots more debate!