By Kate Taylor
Bacchus Marsh Grammar is likely to move out of Moorabool if a proposal by Maddingley Brown Coal to start dumping putrescible waste at its tip goes through.
“Yes, the school will be seriously considering whether its current location is a viable location for a school – the bottom line is, Moorabool can have a big tip or a big school but it can’t have both,” Principal of Bacchus Marsh Grammar Andrew Neal told the Moorabool News.
“For us it’s not an angry thing, it’s a really simple thing – the two land uses don’t co-exist.”
Mr Neal pointed out the school has already been closely co-existing with the tip – but that changing the tip to include putrescible waste could spell the end for the campus.
“If there is an expansion of the nature of the facility then it’s probably a step too far for the school. It’s as simple as that.
“Of our total enrolment, about 700 students come out of Moorabool – but the other 1,800 of those students come from the western suburbs of Melbourne and if we are forced to relocate, there is a certain logic to move out of Moorabool.”
The ramifications would be huge – Bacchus Marsh Grammar is the fifth-largest independent school in the state, it’s the largest in the Western suburbs and the largest from Maribyrnong to the border, with 2,500 students.
“Being such a large school has economic advantages for Bacchus Marsh and generates activity in and around the community; if we were forced into relocating, it would have a significant impact,” Mr Neal explained.
“For a whole lot of historical and aesthetic reasons we would like to remain in Moorabool because one of the features we have is that with the parents, they like students to be educated in a rural environment – a putrescible waste dump next door is not really conducive to that,” he said.
The school would, unsurprisingly, be likely to have difficulty attracting students if it is located next to a putrescible waste dump.
“When I arrived as Principal 21-years ago there was one file on the desk – and that file related to the land use at the back of the school, the tip. We don’t particularly like the situation now, but the putrescible waste dump that Maddingley Brown Coal is proposing is a step too far and this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“Imagine that you’re a parent from Altona and you’re driving in to potentially put your child into Bacchus Marsh Grammar and you come up the southern entrance of the town and you have a putrescible waste dump component. Ask yourself, would you put your child into that school? That’s the question that people have to understand.”
Measures have already been put in place – three classes of Grade Six, about 90 students, are now operating at the new Woodlea campus instead of Maddingley.
“That’s because of the uncertain situation we find ourselves in. The capital investment that would have gone into having those students in Moorabool now goes into having them in Melton Shire and that’s just because of the uncertainty. If it actually goes ahead then it’s going to be a lot more drastic.”
A submission on behalf of the school has already been made to council on Maddingley Brown Coal’s permit amendment application process.
“We are very determined to try to find a solution that works for everyone, we’re not saying that it’s our way or no way, but what we are saying is we can’t live with a putrescible waste dump basically on our doorstep.”