The first was on a single issue: to oppose the plan to remove the established and thriving gardens, 22 water gums, 98 perpetually flowering grevilleas and more than 100 gardenia which flank the North and West side of Wingham’s Central Park.
43 years a resident and property owner of the Manning Valley, (25 years in Wingham), 70 year old Jennifer Allison stood on the streets explaining the proposed Wingham CBD masterplan to the community, and collected 1,498 signatures on the first petition.
An article in the Daily Telegraph 29 May 2021, quoting project engineer Rhett Pattison, claimed more than 75% of people said yes to the new look CBD. The article mentioned modernising Wingham. Jen had read the Engagement Outcomes report and knew that 75% was a proportional representation of the 212 people who had responded to Council’s masterplan survey.
Buoyed by overwhelming support from her town, Jen Allison began a Heritage focused petition. She approached shop owners for their signatures, they responded by asking to have a clipboard on their sales counters. She stood outside Coles Plaza for a week, seeking support for the imminent upgrade of Wingham to be done reflecting its heritage style.
The second petition included heritage style street lights, seats, and flared entrances to Central Park. Also on the petition were the retention of the Rotary heritage clock and the gardens around the outside of Central Park. (The Village Green.) So far the second petition has 1,945 signatures. Combined with the first, a total of 3,443 signatures support keeping the trees and shrubs.
The community of Wingham has invested much effort in these gardens. 10 -12 years ago the trees, shrubs and ground cover gardenias were donated by Greater Taree City Council. Wingham High School students, LandCare, and other community members slaved in the hot sun planting hundreds of trees and shrubs.
Many Wingham people remember the planting of these gardens, they remember the high school kids involvement, they remember GTCC donated the plants, they remember that Midcoast water sent a truck to water them when the community was struggling to keep them alive in the worst of the five year drought.
These plants are a haven for rainbow lorikeets, finches, honey eaters, wattle birds, bees and echidna. In the five year drought and particularly during the fires, the birds flocked to Wingham. These gardens are a significant source of sustenance for our wild birds.
212 people responded to the Wingham masterplan survey. A request to staff for copy of the survey questions was not successful. Speaking with the people who signed her petitions, Jen Allison came into contact with some of those 212. They expressed distress over the survey.
There was no option to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the brick stepped wall proposed in the masterplan. The closed question choices were only about sandstone or Lincoln brick? Light or dark brick? In order to submit the survey one of these boxes had be filled. Responders expressed the view that there was no indication, and they were not made aware, that the brick stepped wall required the removal of the community gardens. They concluded it was a token survey, and that consultation with the Wingham community was superficial.
Wingham welcomes the upgrade of its neglected CBD. The small town has waited more than 20 years for this upgrade and so it deserves to be done properly. Wingham people are deeply attached to their heritage and want to see its infrastructure upgraded in an appropriate heritage style.
Jen Allison hopes Midcoast Council is listening to what Wingham. She and the thousands of people who signed the petitions, hope Council staff can be persuaded to a collaborative team effort to ensure that a well funded project such as this Wingham CBD masterplan achieves what the community wants.
(What about the owners of the shops and buildings? How supportive are they??? Ed.)