The announcement that Holden is ceasing all operations in Australia is seen by many people as a national tragedy, and a great loss to the community.
Whilst I understand people’s sadness that an Australian icon has made it to the footnote in the history pages, Bass Coast now has an exciting opportunity to acquire a wonderful and unique community asset.
As Holden dealers scramble to find other marques to sell, presumably from the dwindling GM stable, Bass Coast should immediately commence negotiations with GM and the state government to acquire the Lang Lang Proving Ground.
The Proving Ground is a very large parcel of land, heavily vegetated with native forest and is home to many vulnerable species of flora and fauna.
It has a small building footprint and a large network of roads and tracks which have been used to develop vehicles suited to Australian conditions.
Undoubtedly GM will intend to sell the asset to another carmaker, presumably to the Koreans or the Chinese whose vehicle sales figures are part of the matrix which saw Holden fail.
I believe that Bass Coast Shire now has a window of opportunity to raise its hand on behalf of the community, acquire it on behalf of the Australian taxpayers who have heavily subsidised Holden since 1948, and redevelop the facility into a multi-use recreational facility or in simpler terms a great big park.
The existing road network could potentially be used for driver education, a field in which Bass Coast is already a leader, having developed the L2P programme which since its inception in Wonthaggi has now been rolled out state-wide.
A comprehensive walking and Mountain Bike Trail Network could be readily and cost effectively constructed which would give locals a much-needed recreation option; we lack any mountain bike facilities currently.
In 2006, Glenn Jacobs, the founder and CEO of World Trail (and the designer of both the Sydney Olympics Mountain Bike Cross Country Course and the Commonwealth Games Mountain Bike Cross Country Course at Lysterfield Park in Berwick as well as numerous other facilities such as Mt. Stromlo in Canberra) toured Bass Coast with then Councillor Gareth Barlow, and was tremendously excited by the opportunities for a mountain bike trail network in the Waterline area.
At that time, The Gurdies Nature Conservation Reserve was discussed, but the potential for conflict with walkers and horse riders was seen by Mr Barlow as problematic and the idea was dropped.
One of the things that excited Mr Jacobs most was the location directly on the Bass Highway only an hour south of Melbourne.
This convenient access to a capital city he felt was certain to lead to significant visitation by riders from Melbourne and would establish Bass Coast as one of the destinations for bicycle tourism both from within Australia and from overseas, leading to a facility which would be eligible for government funding both at the initial construction stages and over time as visitor numbers increased.
I firmly believe that the Lang Lang Proving Ground would be an ideal location for such a facility and that it would rapidly become both a greatly valued community asset and a sustainable, environmentally beneficial tourism destination.
The future of the Proving Grounds is very much a Bass Coast issue.
The site is, I believe, currently zoned for Special Use. It is critical that the future use of the site does not result in a rezoning which allows for vegetation clearance. It is not farmland and should not be cleared for farming.
A trail network would not need to involve tree clearance because as anyone who has ever ridden a good single-track knows a well-designed trail winds around trees and other obstacles and includes features such as rock armouring, which protects trails from suffering over-use or drainage erosion.
In appropriate parts of the facility, a North-Shore style network of skinnies, ladders, bridges and see-saws can be sustainably constructed, providing facilities for those with a greater need for adrenalin than can be satisfied by cross country cycling.
In short, there’s no wheel to be invented, the community deserves something in return for the decades of fruitless investment by taxpayers, we have a window of opportunity to commence discussions with General Motors and the state government and we have literally nothing to lose.
On the other hand, we can do nothing or the council could decide to put the idea in the ‘too hard’ basket.
At some point GM WILL sell the site, either to another car manufacturer or to a corporation who will seek to redevelop the site.
The community will receive zero benefit and an opportunity will be lost.
I hope that the shire will at least examine the options and I call on anyone interested in a sustainable future to discuss this situation with their councillors.
Mikhaela Barlow, Cape Woolamai.