Historical context

I have followed with great interest the matter of MRSC's decision to develop the East Paddock at Hanging Rock, and I think I can bring some historical context to the debate. I was a councillor of the then Shire of Newham and Woodend in 1989 when the council succeeded in buying this land, after several years of negotiation. Attempts to get various government departments and other sympathetic organisations to contribute to the purchase cost failed, and ultimately the council had to go it alone, borrowing $275,000 to buy the land outright. This was a courageous decision by a small council, but all councillors understood that the Hanging Rock Reserve was under severe pressure because of its popularity with visitors (then approximately 100,000 per year, now almost double that). The major reason for the purchase was to reduce this pressure on the environment of the Rock by giving visitors an additional large, cleared area in which to enjoy their visit. This was clearly stated at the time, and I recall that the council was unanimously in favour of the decision to purchase the land. One year after the land purchase, and again after dogged persistence by the council, Hanging Rock was listed on the register of the National Estate. I believe that the listing justified the purchase of the land, and also amplified the need to protect the environs of the Rock. Council later embarked on a management plan for the Rock Reserve, and this was completed in 1992 by the consultancy firm, Loder and Bayly. Extensive consultations were held with community organisations, government departments, bodies such as the SEC and the CFA, and any individuals interested in contributing their thoughts. The result was a comprehensive management plan which, amongst other things, applauded the purchase of the East Paddock as a means of giving greater protection to the Rock. Hanging Rock is an extraordinary geological feature which has world-wide recognition. Current councillors, and officers, need to acknowledge this, and also to pay heed to the passion and respect which locals hold for the Rock. They should also carefully consider the deliberations and actions of their predecessor councillors, and at the very least, engage in meaningful consultation with their community.

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