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April 2016 | Marguerite McNeill
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MEANDER FOUND itself on the world stage last month when the global organisation Teen Challenge staged its bid to take over the old school site to establish a Rehabilitation Centre for Women and Children.
The crowd overflowed out of the Meander Hall when the Meander Valley Council hosted a community meeting to discuss a number of proposed options for the future use of the old Meander School site.
Two other proposals under consideration were Butterfly House Rehabilitation and Recovery Centre and a bid by the Economic Renewal Action Group to establish a Centre for Digital Entertainment, Media Training and Production.
Around 200 people (including 80 Meander residents) poured into the meeting that attracted so many unknown faces that even the locals were scouting around to find someone they knew.
Teen Challenge arrived with a group of supporters and presenters that included Tasmanian executive director Tanya Cavanagh, a couple of star graduates and a tearful father whose statement was largely incomprehensible.
The presentation was polished and efficient and left no room for doubt about the group’s desire to move into Meander where it began garnering acceptance many months ago.
Ms Cavanagh praised the welcoming community for its support for Teen Challenge and wishes to help.
Well prepared, she fielded questions with skill of an A grade goalie and only stumbled slightly when a couple of wing shots caught her unawares.
The meeting was advised that Teen Challenge had substantial financial backing but the source was not divulged.
Nor were names put to the several affiliated religious groups that form the global organisation Teen Challenge.
Also obscure was how the Meander community would benefit from the proposed centre.
Unfortunately, the bonus crowd hailing from Launceston to Devonport overshadowed the easy camaraderie generally present at meetings in the small community hall and a wary silence followed the first presentation by Robert Crews on behalf of the Economic Renewal Action Group.
Although the presentation was rather slap dash, it did include the promise of long term economic benefits for the whole of the Meander Valley municipality, as well as greater social interaction locally and for the wider community. However, the proposal drew just a few pertinent questions.
The response to the proposal by Deloraine woman Jennie Wilson to establish the Butterfly House Rehabilitation and Recovery Centre at Meander attracted a larger but less enthusiastic reaction.
Although admiring of Ms Wilson’s personal commitment to the cause it was not a crowd favourite.
Although empathetic to the proposal, Meander resident Christine Chilcott believes that Butterfly House was not a suitable option for the site.
“It (Butterfly House) needs to be in a more secure location,” she said.
“Somewhere like Ashley (Youth Detention Centre).”
Mrs Chilcott disputed the suggestion that the meeting was “stacked” with people who lived away from the Meander district.”
“It was a public meeting,” she said. “Anyone could go. People are interested in what is happening.”
She had no reservations about the Teen Challenge proposal, saying that the movement was endorsed by many high ranked persons including former Prime Ministers.
“It is an ideal opportunity to have something unique in the Meander district,” she said.
On the other hand, Bodhi McSweeney, who also lives in Meander, saw the meeting as a wasted opportunity for people to hear the proposals in a really balanced way.
“It was a shame that it was stacked,” she said. “There was not enough time for questions and people were intimidated by all the cheering from the Teen Challenge supporters. “I would have been pleased to have a more rigorous look (at all the proposals).”
Council will consider feedback from the community at a workshop prior to its 12th April meeting.
At the meeting, Council will formally confirm the process it will take to determine who will be offered use of the site and advise what additional information is required from each proponent to help to make a decision on the future of the Meander School site.