The Mannum RSL will never build on Mary Ann Reserve, after extensive community consultation revealed strong opposition to the project.
In December 2016, it was disclosed that the RSL hoped to build new club rooms as part of the reserve’s major redevelopment.
Following considerable backlash from Mannum residents, the Mid Murray Council moved to adopt the Mary Ann Reserve Master Plan at its May 9, 2017 meeting, excluding any reference to the RSL’s proposal.
Since then, a series of public meetings have taken place to understand how the people really feel about a potential build on the reserve.
At council’s October 10 meeting, consultant Sue Suter presented the findings.
“The key message was, while there was support for the RSL, there was not support for the RSL to build on Mary Ann Reserve,” she said.
“The main concern was the loss of open space if a building was erected there, as well as concerns for the loss of trees, impact on car parking and events, visual impacts, flooding concerns and the impact on tourism.”
She said suggestions were made for the RSL to involve the Mannum Rowing Club and build a second story or extension into the RSL garden.
Trevor and Hilary Miller, Trevor Twigden and Leonore Nuske, who opposed the RSL’s proposed from the beginning, were among a group of residents who attended the council meeting.
Mr Miller said residents were relieved to know their voices had been heard and that the reserve would remain an open space.
Mannum RSL President Denis Jericho said the RSL thought the reserve’s redevelopment posed a good opportunity for the organisation’s relocation, but the people had spoken.
“The consultation period was good and we listened to everyone’s views… it got pretty emotional but there were also a few really good comments from groups like the (Mannum) Progress Association,” he said.
“If council had said yes to our plans, there would have been people protesting.”
Mr Jericho said the RSL had hoped to create a remembrance centre, and believed Mary Ann Reserve would be an ideal location.
Mr Jericho said Mannum sent more men to both world wars per head of population than any town in South Australia and a remembrance centre would have been ideal.
“But now we will work with the Rowing Club to see what we can do,” he said.
Councillor and Mannum RSL member Jeff Hall said council needed to understand that the RSL building, including the public toilets and kiosk, would have consumed less than 1.8 per cent of the reserve.
Mr Hall felt information was missing the report Ms Suter presented to council.
“I feel a few people have spoken but I’m not convinced it’s the general consensus to oppose the RSL’s plans,” he said.
“A survey done by The Standard and a survey done by council around the Mannum area demonstrated overwhelming support for the RSL’s build.”
He referred to a poll conducted by The Standard, in which 65 per cent of the 113 voters responded in favor of the RSL’s plan to build on the reserve.
The survey conducted by the Mid Murray Council revealed 388 respondents, at 78 per cent, said developing new public toilets and exploring the potential relocation of the RSL to the site was their primary interest.
However, at the time, many argued that it was impossible to determine whether people were voting in favour of the public toilets or the RSL building.
Overall, Mr Hall was disappointed for the service people that had represented the district and would not have a home at the prominent location he felt they deserved.
“People made the point that the RSL is an aging group but you could say that about a lot of the groups in Mannum and we do have youth coming through,” he said.
Council’s chief executive officer Russell Peate commended the RSL for their contribution to the consultation process considering it was not easy for them to go through.
He said council would now work with the Mannum real estate agent who called on expressions of interest for land bounded by Mannum/ Adelaide Road and River Lane.
“We will see if there are any opportunities for development to incorporate the RSL,” he said.