The Tuggerah Public School community has been let down by the NSW Government, according to the Member for The Entrance, Mr David Mehan.
“When I first got elected, one of the first schools to approach me about an issue was Tuggerah Public School, because the school doesn’t have enough playground space,” Mr Mehan said.
“The community learned many years ago that there was Crown Land next door, and they have been asking the NSW Education Department to claim that land for the school,” he said.
According to Mr Mehan, the Education Department has made some attempts to claim the land.
“Those attempts have gone nowhere so far, because there is an undetermined Aboriginal Land Rights Claim over that land,” Mr Mehan said.
NSW Aboriginal Land Rights claims are determined solely by the Lands Minister, working on advice provided by the Crown Lands unit.
In June, 2016, Mr Mehan was advised that the Land Claim Unit had prioritised the claim.
“But since June last year, the school community has had no indication from the Minister or the Education Department that they are still interested in the land,” he said.
Tuggerah Public School’s P&C and Mr Mehan have written letters to both the Department and the Minister.
“The simple way for the Land Claim to be determined is for the Education Department to tell the Minister they want the land.”
Mr Mehan said that he did not know why the Education Department was not taking positive steps to secure the land.
“I can speculate, and the speculation is along the lines that they don’t like the cost of developing the land for the school.
“I am not sure if that is a valid argument.
“The school does have land, but it is on a steep slope that would be very difficult and costly to develop.
“This Crown Land is on the same level as the existing school.
“It is right next to the highway.
“The school doesn’t necessarily have to bulldoze the whole long for an oval, it might have different play spaces, it might have a bush trail, but the important thing is the additional space.
“The school has no ability to plan without the certainty over the land.
“All the Education Department has done locally is to talk to the school about reducing its numbers and heavily come down on rostering playground time,” he said.
The current student population at Tuggerah Public School is 500 and it is reasonably stable after years of significant growth.
Mr Mehan said the Department had been arguing that the school has too many out of area enrolments.
“That is not an excuse.
“Even if you got rid of the out of area children, there is still not enough play space.
“We want the Minister for Education to provide information to allow the Lands Minister to determine the claim in favour of the school.
“This land should not be allowed to be handed to Darkinjung, they have claimed all the Crown Land on the Central Coast and they don’t need this, in my view.
“They should consider the interests of the school community and withdraw their claim.”
Mr Mehan said Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council (DLALC) was aware of his position.
Interview, Dec 18
David Mehan, Member for The Entrance
Jackie Pearson, journalist