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Bulldozer beckons for garden

Declan BushAugusta Margaret River Times
Education Minister Peter Collier announced $30 million in upgrades to MRSHS last week. Placement of the new gymnasium near the Margaret River Organic Gardens has raised concerns.
Camera IconEducation Minister Peter Collier announced $30 million in upgrades to MRSHS last week. Placement of the new gymnasium near the Margaret River Organic Gardens has raised concerns. Credit: Declan Bush

Volunteers will rally to save the Margaret River Organic Garden after news the Education Department’s expansion plans have put the garden’s future in doubt.

The department expects to appoint architects next year to plan an expansion of Margaret River Senior High School after a recent $30 million funding boost, with the historic garden already asked to relocate.

Volunteer organiser Shelley Cullen said members were “deeply saddened” to learn of the plan and would campaign to save the community-run site, which sits on Education Department land, including historic Mansfield Cottage.

“You simply cannot relocate a 29-year-old garden,” she said.

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“There’s plenty of land.

“ They have a whole farm.

“Surely a clever architect could find and design a place that could be suitable.”

Ms Cullen said hundreds of people of all ages used the gardens for education, ceremonies and small events. “There are three generations now of people who have used it,” she said.

“They would be devastated if they knew the garden was going to go.”

Organic Garden group treasurer Jillian Taylor said news the garden could be redeveloped came as “a huge shock”.

“We were promised we would be kept informed,” she said. “Nothing has been said to us at any time since the planning started.”

Ms Taylor said no other place in WA had such a beautiful garden right in the centre of the township.

She said the group wanted to know if its long tenure managing the garden gave it a say in its future.

“It’ll just be very tragic to lose it,” she said.

In written responses provided by the Education Department, MRSHS acting principal Rob Nail said the new gymnasium would not be in the same area as the garden.

“However, our student numbers continue to rise, so to meet the needs of students into the future, all areas of our site will be considered for extra classrooms and school facilities,” he said.

Mr Nail said the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River had offered an alternative location for the volunteer garden group, which was yet to take up the offer — a claim the Shire did not confirm before print deadline.

An Education Department media officer said the staging did not require the community garden to be relocated until the second stage of the build.

Education Department infrastructure executive director John Fischer said the needs of the community garden had been taken into account but the provision of new facilities to allow for growth could not be compromised.

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