Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the Bligh Government was moving ahead with the sale of the former Innisfail State High School site, which will go up for auction on December 16.

“The Department of Public Works will start marketing the former school site on behalf of the Department of Education and Training from next week ahead of the auction on December 16,” Mr Pitt said.

“Innisfail State High School closed in 2009, with students transferring to the new $36.7 million Innisfail State College from the start of the 2010 school year.

“We’ve been working with the Innisfail community since then to finalise plans for the land, including the establishment of an environmental reserve on part of the site.

“The reserve was declared by the Department of Environment and Resource Management this week so plans for the sale of the remaining land are going ahead.”

Mr Pitt noted there had been concerns with the site as a target for vandals, but he’d lobbied hard for Choice Australia to make the site their base of operations for ‘Operation Cleanup’ post-cyclone.

“Since May this year, the Choice team established their headquarters in the former school Library, which also meant that the site was being used again and would be an important deterrent for opportunistic vandals,” Mr Pitt said.

“The workers spent in excess of 4,000 combined hours cleaning up the former Innisfail State High School site – a training exercise for the new recruits – before heading off to work on other properties.”

Mr Pitt said taking the site to market and the establishment of the environmental reserve was a positive step as it meant the community would retain access to the forest and wetland area redeveloped by the Backyard Blitz team on the site.

“The Backyard Blitz team worked their magic on the Innisfail State High School site after it was extensively damaged by Cyclone Larry in 2006,” Mr Pitt said.

“As a gesture to the local community, Backyard Blitz kindly offered to restore the school grounds with environmentally sustainable features and vegetation.

“Hundreds of local volunteers joined the effort including Innisfail State High School students, carpenters, electricians, arborists and Landcare volunteers.

“The results were wonderful and the project left a lasting impression on the Innisfail community.”

Mr Pitt said the new environmental reserve would be managed by South Johnstone Region Landcare with the Cassowary Coast Regional Council as trustee.

“This is an unusual situation as the department has a policy of selling old school sites so the money can be put in to other infrastructure projects,” Mr Pitt he said.

“The Innisfail community has a strong connection to this land so the necessary steps were taken to make sure it remains a community asset for years to come.”