By Jeremy Sollars
The original shelter sheds in the park were demolished in January this year by the Southern Downs Regional Council which deemed them unsafe and an “eyesore”.
The timber and iron-roofed sheds had formerly been a tennis shelter and a play shed at the old Swanfels State School and were moved to the district’s Pioneer Park in the early 1980s.
Apprentices from All Trades Queensland (ATQ) have been engaged to construct the replacement shelter.
Funding of $25,000 was set aside in the 2017/18 council budget for materials and All Trades Queensland is doing the work for free as a project for apprentices.
The council’s Community Services and Major Projects manager Michael Bell told the Free Times this week that “dependent upon the weather, this project is underway and will take approximately two weeks to complete”.
Locals had voiced concerns that the project appeared to have stalled and timber delivered to the site had begun to warp due to recent wet weather.
Current and former local residents and former students of Swanfels State School were furious when the council razed the shelter sheds to the ground on Friday 20 January, less than 72 hours after announcing the sheds – which the council said were infested with termites – were to go.
The park itself is hallowed ground in the Swanfels district, with plaques and trees commemorating early settlers and later families alike, and in some cases marking the site of their ashes, and is also popular with passing tourists such as ‘grey nomads’.
After the demolition the council released a community survey asking residents if they want the sheds replaced, and if so with either a “simple structure” or “reconstruction of a structure similar to the previous building”.
The overwhelming resolution of a public meeting in the park back in March was for council to construct a timber-and-iron structure as close as possible in size and design to the original sheds.
The meeting was told a council report – of which the Free Times obtained a copy – made it clear that the termite damage to the sheds was not insurmountable, leaving many to question why the demolition was ever carried out.
The report by Osborn Consulting says that while “the building does not meet the current regulatory standards framework … it is generally in good structural condition (and) damaged and missing elements … could be remediated and/or replaced which may increase the life expectancy of the structure”.
The Free Times also revealed at the time that the last council budget set aside $20,000 for the works referred to in the Osborn Consulting report.