ACRE packs up rail­way precinct

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BYJAMIE KRONBORG jkro­n­borg@ne­me­

INDIGO Shire Coun­cil is go­ing back to the draw­ing board to scope the ways in which Beech­worth’s for­mer rail­way sta­tion might be used for the com­mu­nity’s ben­e­fit.

The Beech­worth-based Aus­tralian Cen­tre for Ru­ral En­trepreneur­ship – that last year ex­pressed an in­ter­est in the sta­tion precinct which was sub­se­quently ac­cepted by the coun­cil – is not pro­ceed­ing with its pro­posed project at the site.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion, which is lead­ing the re­fur­bish­ment and re­de­vel­op­ment of Beech­worth’s his­toric for­mer gaol, re­leased a state­ment on Fri­day in which it said it had de­cided “not to take up the op­tion to re­ju­ve­nate the old Beech­worth rail­way sta­tion precinct in a part­ner­ship with Indigo Shire Coun­cil, de­spite be­ing the pre­ferred ap­pli­cant to do so”.

ACRE chief ex­ec­u­tive Matt Pfahlert had ear­lier ad­vised the coun­cil of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s with­drawal.

He said “per­sonal and pro­fes­sional at­tacks di­rected at the ACRE team last year and un­cer­tainty about coun­cil­lors’ sup­port of the project” had re­sulted in the de­ci­sion.

ACRE in late Novem­ber, last year, drew crit­i­cism from Beech­worth busi­ness­woman Margy Bar­wood, who op­er­ates a hol­i­day prop­erty near the precinct, and some other nearby res­i­dents about the po­ten­tial ef­fects of youth and cy­cle-re­lated de­vel­op­ments can­vassed in ACRE’s ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est.

Mrs Bar­wood af­ter­wards con­vened a pub­lic meet­ing at the sta­tion but be­came con­tentious and it fiz­zled out when Indigo mayor Jenny O’Con­nor, chief ex­ec­u­tive Gerry Smith and ACRE rep­re­sen­ta­tives left the gath­er­ing.

ACRE at the time said it wanted the precinct to be­come known as “a place where com­mu­nity mem­bers learn new skills and en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties such as so­cial en­ter­prise, cy­cling, mu­sic, skat­ing, the arts and the en­vi­ron­ment”.

It also said that some mis­in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing in the com­mu­nity about what might be done at the site “makes some se­ri­ous as­sump­tions” de­spite the early, de­vel­op­men­tal na­ture of its dis­cus­sions with the coun­cil.

Fur­ther dis­cus­sions be­tween ACRE and the coun­cil did not pro­ceed to an agreed plan for the precinct.

“We want young peo­ple and in­no­va­tors with new or bold ideas to be en­cour­aged to raise them in our com­mu­nity and they won’t if they wit­nessed our ex­pe­ri­ence of last year,” Mr Pfahlert said on Fri­day.

“We are rais­ing this be­cause we would like to see this type of in­no­va­tion con­sid­ered in a con­text of re­spect­ful dis­cus­sion and de­bate.

“If the way we en­gage and dis­cuss bold ideas doesn’t im­prove, we fear this commu- nity may miss out on more ini­tia­tives as both in­vestors and in­no­va­tors may take them some­where else.

“Given what’s hap­pened, we be­lieve Indigo Shire needs to de­velop a clear and uni­fied vi­sion and strat­egy for the site.

“We are very dis­ap­pointed, as we in­vested a lot of re­sources to de­velop our pro­posal.”

Mr Pfahlert said ACRE is still open to play­ing a sup­port­ive role in the de­vel­op­ment of the precinct for the ben­e­fit of young peo­ple and broader com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment fo­cused on en­ter­prise learn­ing and ideas in­cu­ba­tion, cy­cling, skat­ing, arts and cul­ture.

BOLD IDEAS: Aus­tralian Cen­tre for Ru­ral En­trepreneur­ship chief ex­ec­u­tive Matt Pfahlert – at a com­mu­nity brief­ing in Beech­worth’s old gaol last year – wants the com­mu­nity to look for­ward.

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