Lily pond lament

Henty Lily Pond is not as beautiful as it once was, according to longtime residents. 280607_01 Photos: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Shelby Brooks

Locals have expressed their sadness that a picturesque Pakenham pond has become a “litter infected wasteland“ after years of apparent neglect.

The Henty Lily Pond on Duncan Drive was a jewel in Pakenham’s crown when it opened over 30 years ago but now according to passionate local advocate Cheryl Billing Smith the pond is an “eyesore“.

“Once upon a time, the Henty family, one of Victoria’s first families came to Pakenham and in their wisdom they developed this lily pond,“ Ms Billing Smith said.

“In its hay day it was magnificent, however, as is the usual modus operandum of Cardinia Shire Council it is now a neglected, overgrown, weed and litter infected wasteland.“

Ms Billing Smith told the Gazette she was saddened to visit the pond recently and see the mud, rubbish and weeds.

“It could have been a jewel in our crown, it could have been a destination for garden lovers, it could have been a fitting tribute and fitting memorial to Victoria’s first family, the Henty’s that gave so much,“ she said.

“And what do we do to repay their gift? We neglect it, we mismanage it and we ignore it.

“Perhaps in neglecting it and mismanaging it council staff and councillors hope that we won’t notice that they leave it to rot and then fill it in and develop the site with more houses, units and shops.“

Adjacent to the pond is the Lilypond Community Centre, popular with groups such as Outlook, playgroup, callisthenics and the Lions Club.

Jim Stone has acted as committee treasurer, cleaner and maintenance manager for over 30 years but said the centre has been competing with issues of vandalism, security and ageing recently.

He said it was disappointing to see the centre outshone by newly built facilities in other areas of the district.

“The centre is showing signs of age. I think the entire building is subsiding a little because it’s next to the pond,“ he said.

“It’s out of date. The kitchen is 32 years old.“

Mr Stone said he has been advocating for security cameras and better lighting around the building and car park to deter nefarious behaviour and make patrons of the centre feel safe.

He said the whole area, including the lily pond, needed updating.

“If it was prettied up, people see it looks nice and they will give it more respect,“ he said.

Mr Stone said the lily pond had declined in it’s looks since its main water source was removed around 15 years ago.

A Cardinia Shire spokesperson said the lily pond was maintained by the shire.

“The council maintains the front nature strip mowing and the vegetated swale that runs parallel along Duncan Drive,“ they said.

“The council has plans to complete some tree works and replanting along the banks in the new financial year.

“The council is currently working on a project with Pakenham Secondary College to beautify the north eastern corner of the lily pond which is the area under their management. The school has scheduled future works and students will be interacting with the lily pond as part of their curriculum studies.“

The spokesperson said all committees managing community facilities owned by the council have access to grant programs to upgrade the facilities to suit the facility usage such as the council’s Community Capital Works Grants program.

The council has not received any applications for grants for Lilypond House Community Centre in past five years but has undertaken non-routine maintenance works to buildings as required.

“The most sufficient work to occur at Lilypond House in recent years was the replacement of the decking and addition of an accessible ramp. This project completed in 2018 cost over $100,000,” they said.

“We recognise that many Council buildings were built prior to the current building code and the accessibility requirements for new builds is sufficiently different. Annually we review council buildings to assess many things including the accessibility requirements. Projects like the Lilypond House Community Centre deck ramp are undertaken across the Shire to improve access for our community. The council has completed works to the roof reactively over the past few years as leaks are reported by the committee.”

The council considers any CCTV cameras in accordance with their CCTV policy.

Previously, the shire had described the pond as being of “continuing historical significance“.

In 2010, the council’s biodiversity officer Karen Muscat said major attractions of the pond are the lilies that were planted in the early 1900s for commercial harvesting.

The same year, Cardinia Shire Council released the Draft Henty Lily Pond Management Plan.

Ms Billing Smith is hoping other locals will jump onto the cause to save the lily pond.

In a Facebook post she made on the Pakenham Noticeboard, Ms Billing Smith said she was “annoyed, frustrated and angry at the inaction“ to save it.

“We have a major historical landmark, a beautiful draw card, it could be so beautiful, the environment and the community house has been ignored, neglected and mismanaged,“ she said.

Others agreed.

“This was such a beautiful area, play groups and functions at lily pond house, a lovely place for a walk. It’s a shame the families living in the area and beyond cannot see how lovely it once was,“ Ange Reid said.

Ranee Maree Gibbs said: “I remember I used to live just a minute walk away from this once beautiful pond. So sad at how the upkeep has been neglected.“

“Oh how horrible,“ Allison Braden said.

“I remember celebrating special events there when it was so beautiful.“