April 4, 2018
Residents living near Adermann Park in Kingaroy are gearing up for Round 2 of a stoush with St John’s Lutheran School over the future usage of the park … but the school insists they have nothing to worry about.
The park was the centre of much controversy during 2012-13 when the school successfully negotiated to buy a slice of it to be used as a Junior Primary playground.
At the time, principal Helen Folker said St John’s intended to relocate playground equipment to the reclaimed park area, and re-site a junior soccer playing area to the northern end of the block where there was cleared land.
After the school bought the block, fences were erected to separate the area from the remainder of the park and security notices were placed on the gates.
Now some local residents fear that something similar could be about to happen to another slice of the park.
Kingaroy resident Moira Reilly contacted southburnett.com.au on Tuesday morning to express concern about two signs which had appeared on the northern and southern boundaries of the remaining area of Adermann Park.
The signs were placed by the South Burnett Regional Council to alert local residents to a proposal for St John’s to have sole usage of more than 50 per cent of the remainder of the park at specified times during school terms.
Mrs Reilly said she was a regular user of the park, and walked through it almost daily.
She believes the signs were erected last Monday (March 26) and is concerned that many local residents would have missed seeing them as they could be away from Kingaroy over Easter and the school holidays.
If so, they would miss the small window of opportunity to object to the proposal.
Comments have to be lodged with Council by 5:00pm this Friday (April 6).
Mrs Reilly is also afraid that because of insurance liability concerns, the school may erect fences to ensure the safety of children using the area, or may remove some of the trees from the park.
“It’s not up to (Council) to gift a public park to a private school,” Mrs Reilly said.
She has already written to Council herself, and has urged other residents to do the same.
She said another local resident was planning to write a letter or petition and collect multiple signatures.
However, St John’s Assistant Principal Karyn Bjelke-Petersen said there had never been any discussions about purchasing the section of the park.
“The initial inquiry (to Council) was about the possibility of some of the children using the area at morning tea time and lunch time to play soccer, under the supervision of a teacher,” she said.
“We have a group of children who are particularly fanatical about soccer!”
The proposal is for the school to have exclusive use of the area from 10:50am to 11:20am, and from 12:50pm to 1:20pm, on school days.
Mrs Bjelke-Petersen said people seemed to use that section of the park “very rarely”.
“If we see people using the park we wouldn’t take children out there,” she said.
She said Mrs Folker had first raised the idea with Cr Terry Fleichfresser in January, and there had been discussions backwards and forwards with Council since then.
Although she had not been personally involved in these discussions, Mrs Bjelke-Petersen believed the possibility of the school assisting Council with some of the maintenance of the area had been discussed, as well as leaving the soccer goals in place for the use of the community.
She said the school had not been responsible for the timing of the erection of the signs, which had been done by Council.
And there was no plan to erect any fences.
“The community can be well-assured that it is not the intention of St John’s to take over the park in any way,” she said.
“It is just an option for 10 to 15 children to use the park to play soccer.
“There is no future goal in mind to take a little bit more, and a little bit more.”
On Tuesday, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said the proposal to give St John’s Lutheran School exclusive use of a portion of Adermann Park had excited a lot of community interest.
“We were approached by the school to see if it would be okay for them to use the upper half the park for supervised running and soccer for two 30-minute periods every school day during terms,” the Mayor said.
“The area in question doesn’t contain any Council infrastructure and the park is either not used at all, or used very little, during the time periods the school has in mind.
“However, if anyone wanted to walk their dog or use Council’s park facilities during the short periods the upper section was closed off for school use, they’d be free to do so in the other area of the park.”
The Mayor said fears the school could fence off the upper section of the park were also unfounded.
“The school wants to use the park for sporting activities, but students would be supervised by St John’s staff at these times,” he said.
“There is no proposal to wall anything off and Council would strongly resist anything like that.
“The school would not be allowed to remove existing trees from the park or to alter it in any other way.”
Mayor Campbell said the reason signs had been posted in Adermann Park was that Council had received a number of similar requests from different groups across the region to use particular parks.
In an effort to ensure all views got a hearing, the Council recently introduced a new administrative system to standardise the process.
Asked about the short window for public submissions to be lodged on the school’s proposal, the Mayor said the new procedure allowed 14 days from the posting of information signs for the receipt of public submissions.
But he agreed that, in hindsight, it might have been better to wait until after Easter to begin the process.
“By the looks of it, someone decided to put up the signs on March 26 and forgot the four-day Easter break would fall right in the middle of the public submission window,” the Mayor said.
“In these circumstances, I’d like to see and extra week added to the process. But that’s an administrative decision for Council’s CEO to make.”
The Mayor said once all public submissions had been received, they would be collated by staff and forwarded to all councillors, along with the school’s original proposal.
Councillors would then decide whether to grant the request or not at a public Council meeting.