Paddock talks continue

Site improvements at Hanging Rock's East Paddock have bettered recreational use of the site as a concert venue and location for public events. Photo: Bruce Hedge and Kyneton Aero Club

Macedon Ranges Shire Council will continue negotiations with the state government to sell Hanging Rock’s East Paddock despite one councillor’s push to abandon the prospect.
Cr Geoff Neil last week questioned the council’s need to sell the land associated with the “icon that’s very close to residents’ hearts”.
“To be truthfully honest I haven’t come across a coherent answer to that question, but when I ask why we shouldn’t we sell, there are so many points,” he said. “This is probably one of our biggest issues.”
The state government expressed interest in purchasing the East Paddock back in 2018 but since then has failed to reach an agreement with the council on the land’s value.
Mayor Jennifer Anderson last week revealed the East Paddock had been valued at $3.065 million (excl. GST) in October last year.
The council rejected an offer made by the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning in May, which it described as “significantly below” its own valuation of the land. It’s offer will remain confidential.
A report to the council last week stated the main difference in the valuations came down to site improvements. DELWP had not included the improvements in its figure despite arguments the works bettered recreational use of the site as a concert venue and location for public events.
Last week Cr Neil argued the council’s site enhancements had supported the council’s tourism and business strategies while boosting the local economy.
He said undertaking public consultation to determine the community’s level of support for the sale would be meaningless if the council had already reached an agreement.
“The fact is, once you’ve negotiated a price with the government and then go to the people, all you’re doing is advertising that you’ve come to that agreement,” he said.
Cr Janet Pearce disagreed, arguing it would not lock council in to selling the site.
“This is the start of a process in which community consultation will give us more information on this to ultimately make the decision,” Cr Janet Pearce said.
“If we found that 80 per cent of feedback was ‘don’t sell the East Paddock’, of course, then we can make considered decisions on that,” she said.
Cr Anderson said she was opposed the motion that locked the council into one view without a full understanding of all views in the community.
“I think there are many different opinions about the future of Hanging Rock and the East Paddock: the management, the ownership and what should happen there. This is not about a personal opinion here, it’s about ensuring the community has a say,” Cr Anderson said.
“I haven’t met a single person that does not want Hanging Rock and the East Paddock to be an amazingly beautiful place of environmental significance and tourist destination. Everybody, I think, has a passion for the Rock here at Macedon Ranges.”
Councillors voted 7-2 to continue negotiations on the sale of the East Paddock with the state government.