Steiner school’s capacity increased as popularity surges
A STEINER school at Agnes Water has had its capacity increased following a vote by Gladstone Regional Council this week.
Established in 2015, the Goora Gan Steiner School has been operating from the Agnes Water Surf Club, which is in a conservation zone.
Council staff recommended councillors refuse the request for the ‘Material Change of Use of Premises for an Educational Establishment’, at council’s December 15 meeting.
The school requested a change in capacity from 50 students and seven adults to 70 students and seven adults.
“The applicant has stated that the Minor Change Application is being sought as the current venue located along Surf Club Avenue has attracted higher enrolment numbers than originally expected,” council papers stated.
“The Minor Change submission acknowledged that the current venue remains the ‘bridging option to continue to allow the school to operate and provide services to the local community whilst providing time to explore options for more permanent establishment elsewhere’.”
The school has a lease on the surf club premises until 2024, before which time it hopes to have its own premises.
“The mission of Goora Gan Steiner School is to provide a Primary Years Steiner School that meets the educational goals of the Australian National Curriculum, as well as the needs of child development based on the principles determined by philosopher, Rudolf Steiner,” the school states on its website.
When the premises was approved in 2019, council placed a special condition on the facilities capacity of no more than seven adults and 50 students at any one time.
The request by the Goora Gan Steiner School sought the removal of the special condition concerning capacity.
Cr Kahn Goodluck asked where the initial capacity of seven students and 50 adults derived from.
“That was based on the original material submitted by the applicant, at the time the application was made,” a council staffer said.
Cr Goodluck said the school had been working to move from its temporary location and an increase of 20 students would help them move sooner.
“The issue is really about the conflict with the conservation zone,” council staff said.
“On the material presented in the original application it was considered that it was sufficiently low scale enough to enable us to warrant an approval.”
Cr Natalia Muszkat suggested the council staff report didn’t give councillors an indication of what was considered low or high scale development, based on numbers of people.
“The decision was made on the original application...if that was of a greater scale, then it is unlikely that would have been approved at all,” council staff said.
Cr Muszkat echoed Cr Goodluck’s comments about the school looking for an alternative site.
“I guess, by rejecting this request, we would be stalling their growth, in a way,” Cr Muszkat said.
“I would like to approve this request on the basis that it’s a special situation.
“The result of the assessment doesn’t reflect the intention and what is going to happen if we approve another 20 students to go into the school.”
Cr Chris Cameron asked council staff what the impact of 20 extra students would be.
“There is no separate definition of scale around those numbers,” council staff said.
“What’s happening here, from a planning point of view, undermines the original decision to approve it at low scale.”
The sticking point, Cr Cameron said, was the special condition imposed by council.
“To solve this we take the special condition away, or revise the special condition,” Cr Cameron said.
Cr Chris Trevor said one of council’s primary obligations was to support educational facilities.
“I’ve personally winded and dined and drank beer with over 100 guests in that facility,” he said.
“To specify a number under 100 immediately causes me concern...in additional to that we’ve got substantial development within metres of the subject land.”
Cr Trevor moved a motion to recommend the school’s capacity be approved at 70 students and seven adults, which was seconded by Cr Muszkat.
“An increase of student numbers from 50 to 70, plus seven staff will not place significant impact on the conservation zone,” Cr Trevor included in his motion.
When Cr Goodluck asked if overturning the council officer’s recommendation would set a precedent, he was told each application is assessed separately.
Cr Desley O’Grady asked whether councillors should consider a capacity of 80, but Cr Burnett stressed the vote must be on the school’s application and council’s job wasn’t to second-guess applicants requests.
The motion was passed unanimously.