Showgrounds are a no-go zone

March 01, 2018

That padlock, and a few others, blocks local citizens and visitors from accessing the showgrounds.

Where was that padlock picture taken? Manus Island? Alcatraz? Maybe Jika Jika?

Sorry, good tries, but no cigars. That was taken here in Greater Shepparton — actually in Thompson St (running between the showgrounds and the railway easement) north from High St.

That padlock, and a few others, blocks local citizens and visitors from accessing the showgrounds. That Crown Land, mainly green, central, highway frontaged asset is locked on the bulk of days of the year — when the annual two-day Shepparton Show Agricultural and a number of other commercial events requiring fencing, are not in progress. My guesstimate is that it is out of bounds and lying idle on at least in excess of 250 days per annum.

The official reason I recall runs along the lines of ‘‘Still developing — not ready for you boorish bumpkins’’.

Well do I remember, some 16 or so years ago when we (the council of the day) were deciding to involve ourselves in the revitalisation of the former amenity and function of the run-down showgrounds, citing how travellers through central Shepparton on arguably Victoria’s most-used east-west Midland Hwy, were deprived of a green-grass vista between Shepparton East and Monash Park to stop for an aesthetic, shady break.

Even for the locals the showgrounds could be better used for fitness, dog-walking, safe picnicking, coffee-van mornings for mums-and-toddlers — not to mention Carols by Candlelight and sundry rallies.

Sure it might mean an evening lock-up and morning un-lock but so what? Small beer cost for public use opportunity. Padlocks should constitute mainly a general no-go in areas of public open space.

No use greening our municipality and then making those ‘‘greens’’ off limits.

Public access was a big part of the rationale for getting involved with the showgrounds rebore — we need to honour that logical justification of a decade and a half ago, and we need to do it now.

●It is not all that long before we elect our Victorian Legislative Assembly representative for the District of Shepparton and our five Northern Victoria region reps for the Legislative Council.

Our incumbent assembly member is an independent, Suzanna Sheed, who has not indicated whether she will recontest the seat, but you can bet your socks that the Nationals will be keen to win it back again after holding it continuously up to Ms Sheed’s win in 2014, while the Liberals will throw all to grab it for the first time.

So far we have no definite candidate — seems like a cat-and-mouse stand off.

My sense is that if Sheed stands again any National or Liberal with serious aspirations will reassess their enthusiasm — they would have the job ahead of them.

Then again, if the independent retires, stand back or you will be crushed in the rush to represent either of the conservative coalition parties.

The Nationals are experimenting with a ‘‘constituents pick the candidate’’ preselection and I know of one key starter — a real party enthusiast from a highly-respected long-time farming family. Apparently a former unsuccessful Nat candidate, thought to have a good show, will not be offering.

All is quiet in the Liberal camp — all you hear is the approaches being made by party faithful to high-profile prospectives. Polite refusals being the order of the day, although last week some muttering referred to two possible capable women thinking about running. Can’t blame them for wanting to know who they are likely to contest against.

Then there is Labor, the Greens and there is bound to be smaller parties and independents.

In the upper house, Wendy Lovell has the Liberal number one position and will be a shoo-in — Nats will get a seat. Labor one or possibly two with a minor picking up the other seat.

Interesting stuff — should know the major party field by Easter you would think.

●You know what? Our Greater Shepparton City Council, after a stodgy start, is beginning to show some form, particularly in its cohesive and collaborative culture.

The meeting nine days ago was the best I have seen in the 15 months of its existence — a couple of tough issues to be grappled with, handled logically and professionally.

Why don’t you get along and take a geek?

Shepparton’s John Gray has vast experience in local government, urban water reform and natural resource management.

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