Jacksons Hill buildings abandoned. Photo / Sunbury Life.

A moment of détente puts pressure on State government over historic Jacksons Hill

What began as a simple request for Hume City Council to send MP Josh Bull a letter turned into a political tag match this week. And Sunbury councillor Trevor Dance was it.

It all started at a council meeting on Monday 12 February, when Cllr Dance put forward a motion for council to write to Josh Bull. He wanted to know why abandoned buildings on Jacksons Hill – under State government control – have not been maintained since a master plan for the site was approved in 2018.

However, at that meeting, Cllr Dance was left hanging as no other councillor present (when his motion was raised) supported it. See our report here.

Two weeks later, at a meeting of the council on Monday 26 February, a bewildering event took place.

Sunbury councillor Jarrod Bell introduced a variation of Cllr Dance’s motion, admitted it was Cllr Dance’s idea and invited Cllr Dance to put the motion forward for debate.

Clearly put on the spot, Cllr Dance agreed, and then Cllr Bell seconded his own motion in support of Cllr Dance. Confused?

Sunbury councillor Trevor Dance.
Cllr Trevor Dance.

In introducing his notice of motion to the floor, Cllr Bell said: “I want to acknowledge that my notice of motion is very similar to that which was to be debated at our last meeting, with some key important differences. And in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration I wanted to offer my colleague councillor Dance the opportunity to move the recommendation as it is written in the agenda tonight.”

Meeting chair mayor Naim Kurt said: “I take it you [Cllr Bell] are not moving the motion at this point, so I’ll seek if another councillor wishes to move this motion…Councillor Dance?”

Cllr Dance said: “So much for no surprises that we all said at the beginning of this term. I wasn’t even consulted on that. Obviously a bit of public pressure has been applied…I will certainly move it tonight.”

Following Cllr Bell agreeing to support his own notice of motion, Cllr Dance said: “There’s nothing like surprises…But that’s all good, and thank you councillor Bell – as everyone knows I raised a very similar motion back on the 12th [February] and for the first time ever no councillors in the chamber bothered to second it.

“But councillor Bell has gone some ways to amend that tonight, that’s good to see. I’ll always acknowledge when people might have made a mistake. I thank him for that.”

Hear the entire Jacksons Hill debate featuring Cllrs Trevor Dance, Jarrod Bell, and Joseph Haweil.

Councillor Dance went on to say that he had re-submitted his request for a letter to be sent to Josh Bull following the 12 February defeat. But that Cllr Bell had submitted his own similar request on 14 February.

Cllr Dance said: “At the end of the day the main gist of all this is that the Jacksons Hill site has been rotting away. But the good news is that following public outrage our missing MP Josh Bull showed up – up on the hill – on Monday 26 February with Minister (for Development Victoria) Colin Brooks. Obviously a bit of damage control, but he was up there.

Councillor Jarrod Bell, Sunbury.
Cllr Jarrod Bell.

“When are you going to get up off go your butts government and get up there and do something?

“It was this government and our local MP who shut down the ghost and historical tours [at Jacksons Hill] when it was open, and it did have people going through there. So let’s hope the government has a change of heart and opens it up. But I think that might be hard because inside those buildings, they are really wrecked. The longer this goes on the worse it gets.”

Cllr Bell said he appreciated Cllr Dance’s cooperation.

Before councillors voted to support the motion Cllr Joseph Haweil had the final word.

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity,” he said.

“There you go, councillor Dance and councillor Bell working together. I’d like to add my voice in support of the motion from councillor Bell via councillor Dance.

“It is more than reasonable to request an update from the Victorian State government.”

A building on Jacksons Hill. Once-upon-a-time they put fences up to keep people in. Now they keep people out…. Photo / Sunbury Life.

Councillors voted in favour of supporting the 26 February motion (see the 12 February motion from Cllr Dance bottom of page):

That Council

a) Write to both Josh Bull MP, Member for Sunbury and the Minster responsible seeking an update on the progress on the implementation of the Jacksons Hill Master plan since the master plan was approved by the Minster for Planning and gazetted on 8 November 2018.

b) The letter should;

  • Highlight the positive collaboration and direct communication with Department of Transport and Planning counterparts regarding the implementation of the Jacksons Hill Arts and Cultural Precinct.
  • Highlight council’s ongoing efforts and positive engagement with community regarding the development of the Jacksons Hill Arts and Cultural Precinct.

Acknowledge the governments investment into Jacksons Hill including:

  • At Sunbury Primary School,
  • At Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist school and
  • The governments contribution to Councils plans.

Request an update or clarification on any further state government-led initiatives or plans that may impact the development timeline for the broader Jacksons Hill site, while communicating community concern over timelines for delivery of the master plan.

Seek a briefing from the appropriate department officials on the Governments plans for the short and medium term implementation of the Master Plan.

Additionally, the letter should contain a request that the security gates be opened during daylight hours, under the supervision of the onsite security so that community access to the site can be returned to enable passive community enjoyment of the site again.

Cllr Dance’s Monday 12 February motion which was not supported:

Jacksons Hill

This master plan was gazetted on 8 November 2018, Amendment C232 to the Hume Planning Scheme. Amendment C232 makes changes to the Hume Planning Scheme to include the Jacksons Hill Master Plan as a reference document. The master plan was approved by the Minister for Planning and gazetted on the 8 November 2018.


That Council write to Josh Bull asking why Jacksons Hill has seen no improvement or works done to open this majestic site that is rotting away since the master plan was approved by the minster for planning and gazetted on the 8 November 2018.