Menangle Community Association Inc. Presentation to Council at the Council Forum 12 July, 2010.

Council planning often references the Macarthur South Strategy 1991, and along with this and our new LEP, both are slightly deficient in that they do not give sufficient credit to the history of the Camden Park Estate. Unfortunately the Estate is across three government zones, Wollondilly, Camden and the very large EMAI. However Menangle, Belgenny, Gilbulla, Camden and Camden Park House are all linked by a very large and interesting history of Camden Park Estate.

The Menangle area must lay claim to one of the highest concentrations of historically significant sites in rural Australia that stretch back to the early first fleet. This area was at the forefront of Australian agriculture for over 200 years with 14 Australian firsts, and was at the center of many examples of agricultural innovation as well, that were famous across Australia. As a result today, the Menangle area provides a rich heritage for all to see, that is truly irreplaceable.

While the area is still the most culturally significant agricultural area in Australian, it is today still pioneering agricultural equipment and research of national importance, just as the previous owners did. The EMAI today runs innovative robot milking machines, is the state equine flu center, carries out extensive agricultural research, and will soon announce yet another new patented research discovery, and is also currently expanding. Sounds like the Macarthur dynasty of innovation lives on.

The “Macarthur Country” community recognizes that this continuous history is of vast importance to our nation and that the area has the capacity to continue the education of people from Australia and around the world.

This year 6000 students on day trips will be educated at the Environmental School on the EMAI. Some 15,000 people will visit Belgenny Farm, another 4000 to Camden Park House and some 1000 to Menangle shop and the churches.  This is a total of 26,000 people, and as an untapped market, has the potential to grow with the right leadership.

To this end, Menangle needs to keep our heritage hall and school, as they are an integral part of Menangle Village life and history.

The Menangle Hall was built about the same time as the Store in 1905. It was built by the community on Macarthur land. The wrought iron gates are a memorial to Frank Veness, who was the Butter Factory Manager from 1922-1945 and dances were held there monthly in the early 1900’s. Don Bradman played cricket in Menangle and often had tea there. More recently it was the most used hall in Wollondilly. Both the recent Council Heritage Report and the recent village poll show that “the hall is of significance to the community “

The poll was taken in the village where 74 households supported the plan for the hall and school and no one was against it. Of these 74 households, 61 wished to join the Association as a “Friend of Menangle” in support of the plan. And of these 34 households are also willing to help. This is a clear mandate to save the hall and the school.

The community would like to buy the hall back for the sum of $2 and plan to solve its engineering and access issues over time.  Council staff’s main concern was the single fire exit from the property. The Community Association is in a position to solve this with neighbor assistance and providing extra exits through the fence from the property.

We understand that Council is not in the business of restoring and managing heritage buildings. The community did own the hall till 1985 and would now like it back. I would like to thank Council’s Management Executive for supplying the two recent building reports and the heritage report and their advice.

As I said, we believe we can solve these problems given time. The General Manager has made a good suggestion that if the sale is approved by Council, the deed of sale should have a clause that ownership reverts back to council should the building fall into disrepair.  We are quite happy with this and also request the funds set aside to demolish the hall be given to the committee for hall works as a starting point.

The Menangle Public School, was built in 1871 on land given in trust to the Education Department “for the education of the children of Menangle” by Sir William Macarthur. In 1922 a tennis court was built and in 1928 the school won the best garden within 50 miles of Sydney. In 1960 two additional acres were obtained from Camden Park Estate for more area. In 1975 the education department closed it and proceeded to let it go to ruin.


The school is an integral part of the Historic English Village layout, for which Menangle is proud.

It is a major part of Menangle’s Heritage celebrating 100 years of education in 1971.

It is in the middle of a Heritage Conservation area.

The school satisfies the Burra Charter and NSW Heritage Manual in 4 of the 7 criterion and therefore should be preserved in total, including both lots and all buildings.

BHP have identified that the school is in a heritage zone containing 27 buildings and structures of heritage significance.

The community is vehemently against any subdivision, or demolishment or sale of this school on two lot numbers. How can the Education Department get a whole street in Douglas Park and give Menangle 40 square metres of land. Phil Costa is currently lobbying the Education Department and now with Council support we have a chance.

Community Plan.

The Macarthur wood turners have asked several times to be able to begin and to restore the old school building before it is completely wrecked and then to use it.

The Association plans to renovate the teacher’s house and rent it to generate income and also provide security for the site.

The school building could be used for many things. Current ideas are for the wood turners to use, a museum celebrating the many firsts for our area, or for historical functions or a for a historic school or Men’s sheds. Two Saturdays ago, over sixty cars parked there for the Saturday Club push bike races.

There is great opportunity to do more with this site in community hands such as tourism and education as detailed already.

I would like to thank Councilor Ben Banasik for his support and for raising the motion to return the whole school to community ownership and also I would like to thank the Manager and the Council executive who have been assisting us with our questions and planning issues.

Finally, I would like to mention the1991 “Wollondilly Heritage Survey” that reported that Menangle Village has…”an important social entity with a strong sense of community and sense of place, to a degree not reached in the other towns and villages of Wollondilly”

Thanks you for listening and for your continuing support.

Maurice Blackwood, Chairman Menangle Community Association Inc.

Note: Informal discussions after the presentation indicates all Councilors are in favour of both returning the Hall to community ownership and in supporting the motion by Councilor Ben Banasik that the whole school be returned to the community.