Ringsfield House has been a centre for community activities in Nanango for decades, but has been closed for more than a year … now the South Burnett Regional Council hopes a new Advisory Group can help chart the course to a prosperous future for the much-loved historic complex (Photo: Clive Lowe)

June 8, 2021

Ringsfield House will be run by an Advisory Group until 2023 under a new plan proposed by the South Burnett Regional Council.

The historic Nanango property – built by architect Robin Dods for the Graham family in 1908 – has sat vacant for more than a year after a tender last October to take over its operation failed to draw any responses.

Since then, Council has investigated alternative management models to run the complex.

This included seeking advice from neighbouring Toowoomba, Western Downs, North Burnett and Gympie councils on the models they use to run their own community facilities.

At Wednesday’s Community Standing Committee meeting, officers reported their investigations turned up seven different models, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Officers also reported there was no perfect system for managing council-owned community facilities such as Ringsfield.

Instead, they recommended Council set up a volunteer Advisory Group to help plan Ringsfield’s future.

Officers recommended the Advisory Group should consist of a:

  • Chairperson
  • Booking and event co-ordinator
  • Gardening adviser
  • Marketing and tourism adviser
  • Volunteer manager/museum curator
  • Social services/community development adviser
  • Two councillors

Key deliverables for the Advisory Group would be to produce:

  • A business plan
  • A landscape plan, and
  • An event plan

The group would guide the future development of the complex, and report their progress on a quarterly basis.

Members would be selected through an Expression of Interest.

All positions would be designed to encourage specific skill sets, and applicants would be assessed by a panel against these selection criteria.

Officers said they expected selection of applicants would be a 12-week process, and recommended the Advisory Group wind up on June 30, 2023.

During this two years, Council would continue to support Ringsfield’s repairs, maintenance and operating expenses, as well as provide staff time to support the new group.

The officers’ recommendations produced a lively debate among councillors.

While there was general agreement that involving the Nanango community in planning Ringsfield’s future was essential – and that the Advisory Group proposal should be preceded by public information sessions – there was some disagreement about the composition of the management committee.

There was also disagreement about whether the Advisory Group’s membership should be drawn exclusively from Nanango, whether a Councillor should chair the group, and whether the number of Councillors sitting on the Advisory Group should be two or three.

In the end, Councillors voted unanimously to accept the officers’ recommendations as presented, and leave final decisions on other matters to the community.

The dates and times for public information sessions about the Advisory Group will be announced in the near future.

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