Community divided over Walhalla move

Not all Walhalla and district ratepayers support a proposed move into Latrobe City Council’s boundaries – a matter pushed by the Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Tourism Association.

Some business owners of Walhalla, Erica and Rawson have renewed their calls to leave Baw Baw Shire, launching a Facebook page to “start the conversation” on Saturday.

However, resident Paul Staff said most locals disagree.

“I don’t think Erica and Rawson residents are wanting to move. The people I know in Walhalla don’t want to move,” Mr Staff said.

“I like the Baw Baw Shire. They’ve been doing what they can when they can.”

Mr Staff said an example of when Baw Baw responded promptly was when a toilet block was blocked, he complained, and a shire worker was fixing it within two hours.

“I don’t see why moving into Latrobe City would improve things, they have their own problems… it’s better the devil you know,” he said.

Walhalla General Store owner Rhonda Aquilina said she did not support a shift.

“We’re happy with Baw Baw and I can’t see any reason to change,” Ms Aquilina said.

“They’re a distance away, but they’re still available.

“We get support from Baw Baw and we get support from Latrobe… we feel we have the best of both worlds.”

However, tourism association president Michael Leaney said residents were unhappy with the original pairing during local government amalgamation in 1994.

There was a major push to leave Baw Baw in 2002 and also talks of a change in 2008.

Mr Leaney said this time there were “no excuses” left.

“What’s different is that another 13 years has past and there’s been no change,” Mr Leaney said.

“When this first came up, there was the same logical argument for being part of Latrobe City, but Baw Baw said ‘you haven’t given us a chance to prove ourselves’.

“Well there’s been no growth (since then).”

Mr Leaney said the arguments for moving to Latrobe City made economic and geographic sense and disputed the idea of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

The hotel owner said Walhalla’s needs were different to the Baw Baw Shire’s central towns of Warragul and Drouin, and conversely Walhalla did not have a lot to offer those towns.

“For Baw Baw, Walhalla is a drain on their resources, but Latrobe City gets the benefit of every dollar we earn,” Mr Leaney said.

“I do my laundry in Traralgon. When I got my tyres, I got them in Morwell. I do my shopping in the Latrobe Valley.”

Fellow Walhalla business owner Deon Shembri said he also had more connections to Latrobe City than Baw Baw.

“I’m all for it. I live in Rawson. I’d love to see Rawson in Latrobe too,” Mr Shembri said.

“I think it’s just we’re not getting much support (from Baw Baw) at all… we call for things and we’re not getting any response.”

Mr Leaney said the new Facebook page was about encouraging a debate and gauging community member support.

“Most important, people in the community of Walhalla and Mountain Rivers and lots of people in the Latrobe City community would like to see Walhalla as part of Latrobe City,” Mr Leaney said.

He said he would organise conversations with relevant stakeholders, including the two councils and the State Government, but stressed the move was at a very early stage of what could be a long process.

Baw Baw, Latrobe and State Government respond

Baw Baw Shire mayor Murray Cook said council had not had any discussions regarding boundary realignment.

Councillor Cook said the shire would continue to do its best for all of the residents of Baw Baw Shire, including Walhalla.

Latrobe City mayor Sharon Gibson agreed there was a strong connection between the municipality and Walhalla, however she said there had been no formal discussion with council about the matter.

Local Government Minister Tim Bull said he had not received any correspondence on the proposed shift.

“So it would be inappropriate for me to comment having not seen any detail,” Mr Bull said.

“However, in the first instance, I would encourage these communities to have discussions about this matter with their local councils.”

To share your opinion visit