By Jackson Russell
Mitchell Shire Council will provide the Hidden Valley and Wallan District Men’s Shed with a lease on Village Green Reserve in Hidden Valley, but it took Mayor David Lowe’s casting vote to push through the decision.
Council will also support the organisation’s application for a Department of Health and Human Services grant.
The men’s shed is currently operating out of a temporary facility gifted to them by Wallan Gateway Church, which will remain open as a sub-branch after the completion of a shed in Hidden Valley.
Council received more than 300 responses during community engagement, many of which supported the construction of a men’s shed, upgrades to the existing play space and building new public toilets.
South ward councillor Rob Eldridge, central ward councillors Bob Humm and David Atkinson and Mayor David Lowe voted in favour, while north ward councillors Rhonda Sanderson, Bill Chisholm and Fiona Stevens and central ward councillor Annie Goble voted against.
Cr Rob Eldridge said it was the early stages of establishing a men’s shed in the south of Mitchell Shire.
“Before this gets to the building stage, we have to get through a lot more but this is dipping our toes in the water and supporting a community group,” he said.
Cr Atkinson said it was difficult to find land for a men’s shed.
“This is just the start and I hope this will be a great outcome for the Hidden Valley community,” he said.
Cr Stevens said despite a council resolution to explore options at three different sites across Wallan and Hidden Valley, the focus had been on the Hidden Valley option.
“I think council is supportive of the introduction of a Men’s Shed in the south but based on all the information, I don’t think we’re in the right place to make a sound decision and the community expects nothing less,” she said.
Cr Goble said officers were required to investigate possibilities for a men’s shed but included a playground and public toilet in the consultation.
“I have a problem with the process and what was asked during consultation. There is no bus into Hidden Valley and lower socio-economic groups, probably the group that needs this the most, would not be in Hidden Valley and have no way to get there,” she said.
In response to the objecting councillors, Cr Humm said it was a great opportunity for the adjacent retirement village.
“It reminds me of something I was told regarding the Kilmore Football Netball Club, ‘build it so they may grow’,” he said.
Hidden Valley and Wallan District Men’s Shed president Phil Fabel said he would be surprised if councillors couldn’t hear the group’s celebration all the way in Broadford.
“You can’t believe the excitement that went through the group on Monday night when the tied vote went through,” he said.
“This was one of those roadblocks that had to get passed for us to move forward. It means everything to us and we can now proceed.”
Mr Fabel said he would like the shed to open as soon as possible, but realistically it could be up to 18 months away from opening depending on funding.
“It could be longer than that, because who knows what’s happening at the moment with grants,” he said.
“No grants have been announced yet and we’re in quite a different world at the moment. I’m just hoping that men’s mental health might be an issue that the government will still see fit to fund.”