Campaign to Save St Marys Paddock broadens to include all the Abbotsford Heritage Farmlands

Another successful street stall was held today at St Heliers Street to inform the community about the impact of the school building proposed for construction on St Mary’s Paddock and to promote the Public Meeting scheduled for 4th June at 10.30am at the Farm Barn.

Successful street stall at Convent Market 28 May 2011

Whilst visitors to the Convent Farmers market were given a booklet by supporters of  Sophia Mundi Steiner school, our vollies collected another 200 signatures from the public for our petition to Minister of Planning, Mathew Guy, MLC.

People aren’t swallowing the school’s argument that it’s only 10% of the paddock that they’re claiming. There appears to be healthy skeptism regarding the Convent Board’s intentions for the remainder of the paddock.

Not just St Mary’s Paddock under threat!

In fact, whilst Heritage Victoria continues its deliberations this month on the heritage value of siting a new five-room school building on St Mary’s Paddock, it’s worth scrutinising the other plans that the Convent Foundation has regarding the remainder of this paddock and the other paddocks on Convent title – paddocks that have been farmed by the Collingwood Childrens Farm for the last 32 years, and indeed farmed with little interruption since 1838, well before the Convent was established.

With irony, we quote from the ACF DRAFT Artistic Vision 2011-2013:

‘The place presents a bucolic landscape within an urban context.’

The concepts being floated in the Landscape Masterplan of October 2008 (not publicly available but laughingly referred to as the ‘Monsterplan’) and the Draft Artistic Vision 2011-2013 (now accessible via the Governance section of the Convent website) would see the paddocks in contention being taken over variously by an amphitheatre, lakes and sculpture gardens  – thereby ‘spiffing up’ most of the bucolic landscape.

In spite of the consistent lack of transparency in governance characterising the conduct of  the Foundation since 2005, CARA has consistently opposed attempts to put cars on the French Meadows and, more recently, a move to conduct a 5,000-people food, wine and music festival there. And this is not because local residents don’t enjoy good food, wine or music. The ‘Meadows’ is an integral component of the Farmlands and is critical to the viability of the Farm.

Amphitheatre, lakes, terraced gardens planned for farm paddocks

The ‘Monsterplan‘ would see the Meadows transformed into an amphitheatre, Regal’s Paddock into lakes and St Mary’s Paddock into a terraced garden.

The Draft Artistic Vision 2011 to 2013 for St Mary’s Paddock updates this concept by contemplating a: ‘shared garden (in the Goats Paddock probably) that might incorporate art installations too’ and in 2013 ‘Maintain and improve the shared garden in the Goats Paddock’.

If this plan ever comes to fruition, we wonder whether the Foundation might pay lip service to its ‘bucolic’ heritage by installing a plaque in memory of its humble origins as the ‘Goats Paddock’.

It took ages to install the rock commemorating the Community campaign to save the Convent precinct from private development. Now we seriously doubt the Board’s competence to preserve the precinct’s public open spaces and the heritage farming activities on the paddocks. Yes, the farming continues under a Gentlemen’s agreement, but we wonder whether the Board has lost its will to honour this.


About cara.residents

On behalf of residents of Collingwood and Abbotsford, our purpose is to maintain and develop our community, its amenity and the environment, and plan to provide a safe and vibrant neighbourhood.
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