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Byron Shire
July 6, 2022

A damning report on Murwillumbah’s ‘Mega-School’ DA

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Plan of the Murwillumbah Education Campus.

If it was a report to the parents of the Department of Education on their project ‘Murwillumbah Education Campus development application (DA)’ then they might be tempted to burn it before it went home. 

The criticisms contained in the report by staff of the Tweed Shire Council on the DA for the Murwillumbah Education Campus, which is proposing closing four local (two primary and two secondary) schools to erect one mega-campus, were significant. 

Mayor Chris Cherry.

‘There are a lot of shortfalls in this application,’ Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) told the recent planning meeting on June 2.  

‘I think it is important for everyone to understand that this [report] was created by the staff. There was no input from councillors. This is not for political gain, this is a very real response on what are the deficiencies in this application.’

‘There are so many shortfalls. We can’t do this at the expense of the residents of that area. We need to stand up for residents and get the controls to be met… I would like to talk to the Premier and ask them to consider altering the proposal.’

Cr Meredith Dennis.

Independent Councillor Meredith Dennis was clear in her criticism of the DA. 

‘I’m absolutely horrified at the planning of the school. The removal of trees, small inside areas… In Murwillumbah there is already gridlock coming over the bridge. The lack of consultation with the community – it is terrible. If this came to us we would have said “no” straight away, it’s dreadful.’

‘Councillor Dennis hits the nail,’ agreed councillor Reece Byrnes (Labor). 

‘From the very beginning, this has been an arrogant decision made by an out of touch government.’

Liberal councillor Rhiannon Brinsmead congratulated the staff on their report and said ‘I think Madam Mayor you were being kind when you said it was deficient’.

Tweed Councillor James Owen.

‘I read it and my mouth dropped to the floor it was so deficient,’ said councillor James Owen (Liberal).

‘I think we should send it to the NSW Premier, Minister of Education and the two local state members.’

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin. Photo Tree Faerie.

Saffin ‘rock solid’

State member for Lismore Janelle Saffin came out again in opposition to the mega-school amalgamation saying her support of the four existing schools is ‘rock solid’. 

Ms Saffin said Tweed Shire Council’s damning submission and formal objection to the Murwillumbah Education Campus development application, combined with the school communities’ concerns, should be enough for NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell to scrap the Government’s ill-advised plan and heavily invest in existing schools instead.

‘My position has not changed; if anything, my opposition to this proposal – which is half-baked at best, silly at worst, does not contain a performing arts centre as touted from the original announcement all the way along, is vague on assessing flood impacts and is generally lacking in detail – has solidified,’ Ms Saffin said.

‘Some issues identified by Council include inadequate playing fields; indoor halls too small to be used as shared community spaces; a lack of shading for students; a 90-space shortfall in car parking spaces (which would put serious pressure on surrounding streets); and an incomplete bushfire management plan.

‘It all adds up to a half-baked plan which sells the local community short, prompting Tweed Mayor Cr Chris Cherry to say the State Government should be a “model applicant, but is flouting all of our requirements and at this stage is being anything but”.’

Ms Saffin noted NSW Teachers Federation Deputy President Henry Rajendra’s call for the NSW Government to immediately halt its merger plan, and engage with local parents and teachers to permanently protect the staffing entitlement for existing schools.

In Education Quarterly Online, Mr Rajendra said: ‘The issues raised by Council are in addition to the staffing cuts that will result when the schools are amalgamated. Primary school provision will, at a minimum, lose a classroom teacher, up to two assistant principal positions, a principal position and a reduction in teacher-librarian staffing.

‘The situation is far worse for high school staffing. It is predicted that at least 16 positions – 20 per cent of the teaching staffing entitlement – will be cut, including classroom, head teacher, teacher-librarian, careers adviser and principal positions,’ Mr Rajendra said.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting, but awful, that a state government planning application for the mega-school should be so flawed. It seems that the government is adopting the tactics of Its unscrupulous developer friends by submitting flawed DAs that it plans to push through via the political process, pro-development mates on Council. Good to see that model doesn’t work in Tweed anymore!

  2. Is Murwillumbah a dying town? A healthy town is a growing expanding town where business, housing and education facilities are diversified and decentralised as growth expands in a healthy town like the branches and roots of a tree.
    The NSW government through its department of Education wants to concentrate and centralise its education in Murwillumbah from four schools into one school.
    That is constriction when education is restricted from being in four separate schools as those schools are to be closed down. That centralisation is made because of economy of scale. The term ‘an economy of scale’ is a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production. An example is a merger where mainly businesses are merged together so capital and finance is concentrated into one spot. We then have rationalisation. In business, rationalisation is the reorganisation of a company in order to increase its operating efficiency. In mining we once had BHP. It joined with the British company Billiton to form BHP-Billiton and efficiency of economics was achieved.
    But we lost something as well. We lost part of what BHP stood for. It stood for Australia as it was know as “The Big Australian”. It is now a conglomerate.
    In closing four schools with four identities in Murwillumbah what is to happen to the kids from those schools, their hearts, their minds and their identities,
    In Murwillumbah we had four separate schools and each had their proud insignia and badge of honour and that identity will be lost in a conglomerate school where all schools will be mixed together into a “Mega-School”. What the department will gain in finance and in monetary efficiency will be a loss in the student, our kid, a loss inside the students’ mind and in identity of just what school they go to and belong to. “To belong” is very important in a special group growing up and in school is part of socialisation of how to be a social citizen.
    Not far away from this now-named Mega-School we have Knox Park a place were louts and hooligans who don’t belong anywhere in society hang out and cause trouble and damage because they do not belong mostly to anything. They are loose and wild and on the run as they have no connection or roots in Murwillumbah society. They are the unloved and they in return do not love anyone either or belong anywhere in return. That is the price we could pay as a society when we divide schools up to gain money. We cut our ties with the better things, the connections that are more valuable than money that we need in being a better caring citizen.
    What is our allegiance to, the government or to our kids. Stand up.

  3. I believe many of us in the Tweed Shire community would prefer to see this complete disregard by the NSW LNP Coalition and its Eduction dept Minister towards our community and Tweed Shire Council on this matter be investigated. This type of behaviour, should in future, be considered an actual criminal offence. This really should be referred to the NSW ICAC, it way past appalling, its offensive, here is the duty of care? Perhaps if the NSW Govt refuse to consult and respect the opposition from our community and Tweed Shire Council, the Federal Govt may be forced to have to intervene on behalf of the community?

    • While in complete agreement , and I for one would be deliriously happy to see government , and individuals in particular, held responsible for their action, or indeed lack of actions, in complete abrogation of their obligations of government portfolio.
      Face facts Tweed, the allegiance of this government is to PRIVATE schools, that’s where the money is !
      This rabble in ‘Murwillumbah Education Campus’ is better crowded into a hamlet for public bogans , where they can be treated to the delights of mass production and ‘no frills’ processing, to familiarise them with the reality of their second class expectations, while saving on the already massive underfunding compared to the ‘private’, ‘ for profit’ , religious indoctrination and sexual grooming stables for fun and profit, where the votes are.
      Praise the Lord and Pastor Kid. Cheers, G”)

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