How truly ironic that the NSW DET chose November 11 as the day to effectively announce the selling off of Hurlstone’s beloved Memorial Forest.
Hurlstone Agricultural High School will be, literally, in the shadow of its former self within the next few years. It has been confirmed to staff that Hurlstone’s ‘parcel’ is the ‘surplus land’ referenced in media reports of the last few days. According to an email from Director General Coutts-Trotter to DET principals dated Nov 11:
- ‘Up to 140’ hectares of land at Hurlstone is considered surplus and will be sold in 2011. The School will retain 20 hectares.
- A policy change – made as a result of this decision – will not allow Hurlstone to keep the ‘lion’s share’ of the money. It will be reinvested in schools, police and nursing.
A 20ha land allocation is too small to allow the Memorial Forest to remain part of Hurlstone.
This last point is probably the most galling, and the reason why this decision will become a prominent and contentious issue beyond the school’s (current) boundaries.
As part of the centenary celebrations last year, Old Boy and former Deputy Peter Marsh spearheaded an effort to replant and restore the Memorial Forest – now recognised as Australia’s first ‘living’ war memorial. It was established in 1950 as a memorial of 600 Hurlstonians who served in both World Wars.
(More information about the Memorial Forest, and its place in the life and history of Hurlstone is at the Alumni site.)
The exclusion of the Memorial Forest from Hurlstone’s new land allocation has been described as a ‘slight on not only the school but all Hurlstonians/Servicemen whom the forest represents’.
The Government hopes that by selling HAHS land and the old Seaforth TAFE they will raise just under $240M: half will go to local school capital works and half to ‘front line services’ like policing and nursing. (see the budget papers here, refer page A-5).
The DET points out that the new Hurlstone allocation will be twice the size of James Ruse (10ha) and more than three times the standard school size of 6ha.
Money and real estate speculation aside, the Memorial Forest must be saved. If it goes, so does a good, rich chunk of Hurlstone’s history and Australia’s wartime legacy. It is a longstanding memorial for a school with such pride in its contribution to Australia’s wartime history that it’s school motto is Pro Patria.
It would, figuratively, tear Hurlstone’s heart out.
If the local RSL isn’t up in arms about this, then it should be. If ex-Hurlstonians aren’t outraged, then they need an email. Hey, maybe the HAHS Old Boy in charge of DET’s ‘asset management’ might have something to say.
Is the decision young enough to be influenced? Is the forest worth saving?
We’ve observed a minute’s silence. Now, let’s make some noise.
* UPDATE: Here is a graphic that shows where the Memorial Forest sits in relation to what I have guessed is the 20ha 2011 allocation (revised 14 Nov based on new information). By my quick-hack calculations, it would require as little as a 2ha extension to save the memorial.
** UPDATE 2: In response to some questions: no official boundary for the 2011 allocation is yet public, making it all the more important to act now, before DET releases a map that will require a revision. The Memorial Forest has not been mentioned (or considered?) by the DET at this time. There is still time for the DET to include the forest and say it was never intended for it to be sold off.
However, any 20ha versions of HAHS that include all the playing fields must exclude the Memorial forest. Try it yourself.
The best indicator of current thinking is the security fence that was erected about a decade ago, which extends along Roy Watts Road to just past the old principal’s residence and down Dairy Lane.
*** UPDATE 4: You can now join a FaceBook group to show your support.