By Sharon Webb
THE MEANDER ratepayers association will go to the Supreme Court with their case for the return of the Meander school to the community.
The trigger for the move was an appeal loss last month at Tasmania’s planning appeals body RMPAT in their fight against Meander Valley Council to prevent a drug dependence rehabilitation program taking over the former Meander Primary School site.
MARRA secretary Karen Hillman said, ‘Our legal advice is that we have a good case.’
Meander Valley Council’s decision to hand over the school property for a peppercorn rent to Teen Challenge has already cost the council dearly in legal fees to RMPAT.
MARRA, which has 85 paid up members, says its fundraising through GoFundMe is going gangbusters.
At RMPAT, MARRA argued that Teen Challenge’s use of the property does not comply with the planning scheme’s standards for vulnerable use of the Bushfire Prone Areas Code.
Speaking about Teen Challenge’s appeal win, the organisation’s executive director Tania Cavanagh told ABC Radio’s Mornings program she believes the majority of the Meander community supports the proposal to take over the school property.
‘Our clients will consist of women with addiction issues – substance addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction etc. They must detox for six weeks before they move in to the centre and enter a oneyear program.
‘The women can bring their children, who will do schooling.’
Ms Cavanagh said Teen Challenge’s next step would be to gain a building permit.
Local resident Kevin Knowles told ABC listeners that Teen Challenge was a division of ‘the far right religious group Assembly of God’, and the school would be a religious conversion centre rather than a drug rehab centre.
Ms Hillman commented that Meander Valley Council was supposed to act in the best interests of the community but seemed to be operating in the best interests of Teen Challenge.
‘A drug facility is just the wrong thing for our community. MARRA members are adamant that the school can be put to better use.’
Meander Valley mayor Wayne Johnston, who lives in Meander, told ABC listeners, ‘We need a drug facility somewhere. It’s all right to say “not in my backyard” but someone’s got to help the women and children.’
Mr Johnston said the school buildings, now empty for several years, need maintenance.
‘At the end of the day we can’t lift the school up and take it somewhere else; it’s in the middle of Meander. There’s got to be some give and take on both sides,’ he said.
Ms Hillman described RMPAT’s rejection of the appeal as ‘a bump in the road’.
‘We will return the school to community ownership,’ she said.