Sunday afternoon’s Living Classroom Discovery Walk saw nearly 60 people attend to hear what is planned for the area.
After a great barbecue lunch, cooked by the Bingara Lions Club, Vision 2020 President, Rick Hutton, welcomed people to the Living Classroom.
He talked about the benefits the project will bring to the town of Bingara, explaining that the project is unique in the world. Unique in that it addresses the “four pillars” of agriculture, tourism, education and regional conferencing that were identified as the best prospects for Bingara’s social and economic development from the original survey circulated by Vision 2020.
Mr Hutton said that initial estimates suggest that in the next five years, the site would provide 20 jobs.
Rod Smith, Training Officer with the Gwydir Shire Council was then invited to address the gathering. Mr Smith spoke about the State and Federal Government funding which has been gained to establish the three Trade Training Centres in Bingara and Warialda, which will provide vocational opportunities for local students who do not wish to study at university.
He said these vocational courses will provide a pathway for school students to gain Certificate III qualifications. Mr Smith said that although the teachers from Bingara Central and Warialda High will be involved at the Living Classroom, as will TAFE teachers, the project is unique in that it is not on Department of Education land.
This means that better value can be gained from the funding, as the facility will be community based. “By next February, the training facility will be in use. It is important to remember however, that the Trade Training Centre is only a small part of the project,” Mr Smith said.
Environmental Services Director, Glen Pereira was the final speaker. He talked about water as the key component of the site. A series of swales have been constructed to work with the existing contour banks to hold water and promote water infiltration. Ponds and lakes will increase onsite water storage which will permit aquaculture, along with agriculture and horticulture.
Mr Pereira said that in the future, it is hoped that waste water from the town’s sewerage plant can be brought back to the site, filtered through a series of reed beds and algae crops and fed back onto the Living Classroom thus creating a “closed loop” with waste water.
He also said that the community creates a great deal of green waste. The plan is to chip that material, incorporate it with solids from the sewerage plant to make compost that will be used at the Living Classroom, as well as being available for the shire’s residents.
A number of different groups already wish to be involved with the project. Gwydir Shire’s sister city, Willoughby Shire Council has offered to fund the establishment of a Chinese vegetable and medicinal garden. It has also expressed interest in accessing carbon credits for Willoughby, worth in the order of $4 million. As well, a group of students from the University of Technology in Sydney are planning to visit in the winter.
In the winter the students will undertake some labouring jobs on the site as part of a country experience. Mr Hutton said he was pleased with the amount of interest shown in the Living Classroom project. “People were able to see the scope and breadth of the project. Solving the stormwater problem alone has been a major positive,” Mr Hutton said. He also said he was very pleased to have John Wade come with his horse and dray to transport people around the site. “It added another dimension to the afternoon,” he said.