Rock review is welcome

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, meets with Macedon Ranges Shire Council CEO Peter Johnston (left) and Hanging Rock Action Group spokesperson Luke Spielvogel to discuss the Hanging Rock management review report.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, meets with Macedon Ranges Shire Council CEO Peter Johnston (left) and Hanging Rock Action Group spokesperson Luke Spielvogel to discuss the Hanging Rock management review report.

Changed management of the Hanging Rock precinct will allow the community a greater say in its future.

This follows the completion of a review of Macedon Ranges Shire Council's management of the site which will now also allow for greater transparency.

As part of an election commitment, the Andrews Labor Government undertook the review, engaging independent consultants, PPB Advisory, who, after extensive community consultation, delivered a report to the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville.

The action was initiated in response to a controversial plan by Macedon Ranges Shire Council to seek private investment to develop a conference centre and resort at the Rock, which was met by strong community opposition.

The report found

* Integrated management of both the Reserve and East Paddock was important to the long-term sustainability of the Hanging Rock Precinct.

* Key areas for improvement related to governance, community engagement and clear strategic directions to identify the future investment needs for the precinct.

Ms Neville met with Macedon Ranges Shire Council last Wednesday to propose that council retain management responsibility with a number of changes, including greater transparency and engagement with the community.

Council will now be required to work with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to change the name of the Hanging Rock Development Advisory Committee to Hanging Rock Strategic Advisory Committee, increase the environmental representation on the committee and change the role of the committee.

It will be required to develop a new masterplan for the precinct - including the East Paddock - in conjunction with DELWP and in consultation with nominated key stakeholder groups. It must also deliver an annual report to the secretary of the DELWP detailing income and expenditure directly related to activities at the Hanging Rock Reserve. These will be made publicly available.

Hanging Rock Action Group spokesperson Luke Spielvogel said the group felt optimistic about the management review outcomes. 

"A master plan will identify the values we all love about Hanging Rock and provide a clear vision of how we work towards our shared aspirations for the precinct," he said. 

"It will also provide formal recognition of the precinct's conservation and cultural heritage values, to help strike that holistic balance between recreation and tourism that we think has been lacking. 

"We're also pleased to see recognition of the East Paddock, which has long been regarded as a part of Hanging Rock and will continue to be managed that way."

A 'witch hunt' - Cr Letchford

At last week's Macedon Ranges Shire Council meeting, Cr John Letchford described the review as a "witch hunt" before being forced to withdraw the comment.

He claimed council had been vindicated by the report.

"It was obvious from the reporting that what we were doing was correct (in seeking private investment to develop a conference centre and resort at the Rock)," he said.

Cr Letchford also claimed the proposed development at the Rock was only objected to by a small minority.

"People who are easily swayed by minority groups and email chains and bang on about the negativity about council should be sidelined and be careful about listening to those minority voices who have another agenda or an axe to grind," he said.

"What we were trying to achieve was to make sure that Hanging Rock was sustainable.

"It's easy to ignore logical, productive and positive ideas. I'd much prefer for us all to meet halfway in the debate and to go away and think about how they would manage with very, very little resources. None of these minority groups put forward any other solution, that's now culminated in a report that vindicates council."

Hanging Rock Action Group spokesperson Luke Spielvogel said he was disappointed by Cr Letchford's comments.

"The announcement encouraged a sense of mutual cooperation between community, state and local government for positive outcomes at Hanging Rock that we're really encouraged by," Mr Spielvogel said. 

"Confronted by a positive path forward, Cr Letchford immediately went on the defensive. We hope that cooler heads prevail at council."

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