Apsley's future in spotlight

APSLEY'S recreation reserve, school and shop were key topics for discussion at a public meeting in the town last week.

Nearly 60 residents attended the gathering at Apsley Hall to discuss directions Apsley could take in the future.

The meeting was instigated by the Apsley Action Group and the Apsley Progress Association.

Former Parliamentary Speaker David Hawker and the acting chief executive officer of the Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital Ann Bates facilitated the meeting. 

As part of the meeting residents split into groups and brainstormed what they felt were the most pressing issues for the town. The whole group then voted on the issues - every person had three votes which they could allocate.

After a short count the most votes were allocated to the Apsley Recreation Reserve with 29, the school with 23 and the shop with 19.

The reserve had recently applied for a grant to be upgraded - but was knocked back - and there were fears for the future of the town's major sporting ground.

With less than 20 students enrolled, and more leaving to go to school in Edenhope and other areas, most were concerned with the state of Apsley Primary School. Despite the school being a reputable source of education with adequate resources for the kids, it was said people may be leaving because of its size.

It was reported there was a large number of students, around the same amount as currently enrolled, who live in Apsley and its surrounding area but do not attend.

The shop, and enticing people to spend money in town, also received a lot of attention.

Local resident Geoff Shortt, on behalf of the discussion group he was a part of, said it should be a big priority.

"We all spend our money out of town," he said. "Because there is nothing here to spend it on."

He continued to say the town has one remaining business - the post office - which needed to be supported.

Discussion points at the meeting will be put into an official document which will then be submitted to the West Wimmera Shire Council and used in grant applications.

Apsley Progress Association chairman Rob Carberry, who chaired the meeting, said it was important for the town to have a clear documented direction. "It's very important to document where we see ourselves going," he said. "So we can then support the direction this town wants to go."

West Wimmera Shire Council chief executive officer Mark Crouch attended the meeting and, along with mayor Ron Hawkins, put his support behind the town.

"What happens at Apsley is important to us," he said. "Apsley is not on its own - every town has the same issues." Mr Crouch made no grand promises about the shire stepping in to help.

"The real drive for change will be with the community, not the council," he said.

"We haven't got the answers...I'd be happy to see fewer things promised and delivered rather than promising the world."

Mr Hawkins spoke at the end of the meeting about moving forward with the plan for Apsley's future. "Now we've got to get strategies in place and start doing things," he said. "It will be supported."

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