In a backflip of epic proportions, the State Government has today announced that Hurlstone Agricultural High School will stay in Glenfield after all.
The reversal comes four years almost to the day since the government revealed plans to relocate Campbelltown’s iconic school lock, stock and barrel to a Western Sydney University site in the Hawkesbury.
There was a hue and cry then, led by the local MP, Anoulack Chanthivong, who has continued to be a thorn in the side of the government over the Hurlstone decision.
Today, the Member for Macquarie Fields told the South West Voice in Macarthur he had never given up believing the government would eventually see the light.
“This is a win for our community and for all of those who believed in Hurlstone,’’ Mr Chanthivong said.
“This was never going to be an easy fight, but I knew the community were up for the fight to protect something so dear to us.
“And while I am delighted with the outcome, the uncertainty inflicted on our community was so unnecessary over four long years,’’ Mr Chanthivong said.
“It’s not a perfect outcome because as I understand it a big chunk of the land will be sold off to developers, but it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.
“I will be placing very close scrutiny on what those plans are and that the dairy, the farm and the boarding facilities upgrade are funded as promised by the government.’’
The Berejiklian Government spin meanwhile is that Hurlstone staying at Glenfield is all part of a “new model of agricultural education’’.
Its media release said plans included “a new Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education in the Hawkesbury, new selective streams of agricultural education at Richmond High School, and upgrades to Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield’’.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the new model will “preserve and enhance’’ the rich history of agriculture in the Western Sydney region, and will support agricultural and STEM education needs for students across NSW.
“This new approach will not just strengthen agricultural education opportunities, it will also foster industry engagement, create broader educational pathways with Western Sydney University and TAFE, and support teacher education in the areas of agriculture and STEM,” Ms Mitchell said.
“The new Centre of Excellence at the Western Sydney University campus will be available to students right across the state, for intensive studies, regular visits or excursions from regional, metro and overseas students. This centre is the first of its kind, which is incredibly exciting.
“We have also consulted extensively on the existing Hurlstone Agricultural High School, and I am pleased it will now stay at its current Glenfield site as an academically selective, boarding, agricultural high school; keeping its name and receiving an upgrade to boarding facilities,’’ the minister said.
Mr Chanthivong said he believed the government had succumbed to “people power’’ over Hurlstone.
“I want to thank every single resident who joined my Hands Off Hurlstone campaign over the past four years to keep Hurlstone at its rightful home in Glenfield,” he said.
“It has been a long and hard fought campaign but we didn’t back down and I look forward to Hurlstone maintaining its strong and proud tradition at Glenfield.’’
Mr Chanthivong paid tribute to key figures in his campaign including Hurlstone alumni Dr Peter Benson, the late Laurie Porter, former Hurlstone principal John Norris and former Macquarie Fields MP Dr Andrew MacDonald.
“You always continue to apply community pressure on something that you value so much, which is the case with Hurlstone,’’ he said.
“It shows if you believe in something enough and if you care about something enough you can have a poor decision reversed.
“We never gave up and this is a lesson about never giving up on things you believe in,’’ Mr Chanthivong said.