Divisive issue resurfaces

Debate over the placement of a new performing arts centre was reignited when Latrobe City Council voted to review the location while applying for federal funding.

In 2012 council decided the Latrobe Performing Arts and Convention Centre should be built next to Kernot Hall, Morwell instead of next to the existing centre in Traralgon – a position that was deemed equally viable.

Since then progress on the multi-million project stalled, with no government funding secured.

When the opportunity to apply for the federal National Stronger Regions Fund arose, council officers prepared a report, citing issues with the Kernot Hall site and unexplored sponsorship opportunities as the need for a review.

The decision to conduct a review was opposed by Central Ward councillors Graeme Middlemiss and Christine Sindt, and South Ward councillor Darrell White.

An angered Cr Middlemiss said he did not accept the need to revisit the placement, claiming the review was simply an attempt to move the centre to Traralgon.

“This is a charade… this is a farce,” Cr Middlemiss said.

Cr White said he was concerned the funding application would raise the community’s expectations, adding an indoor swimming pool in Traralgon was meant to be council’s next priority.

Cr Sandy Kam said she wanted the review to be done “quickly”, but argued it was necessary.

“We’ve got nothing to fear about being responsible,” Cr Kam said.

Traralgon is the ‘rightful’ place

Traralgon Community Development Association has vowed to fight to ensure the performing arts centre “stays in its rightful place of Traralgon”.

President Bill McMahon said the site of the existing performing arts centre had always been an accepted part of Traralgon.

“It’s situated within four or five minutes’ walk from the best restaurant, eat out area outside of Melbourne and it’s within six or seven minutes’ (walk) of the railway station, which make it very available via public transport for anyone in Gippsland,” Mr McMahon said.

“And in my view there would only be socio-political reasons for shifting the complex to Morwell.”

Mr McMahon said the TCDA would not be silent if council went against “common sense” and again determined it should be built at Kernot Hall.

“Should (council) see fit to move it to Morwell, our group, with residents of Traralgon, will oppose and fight it,” Mr Mahon said.

“Any proposal to shift the Little Theatre complex to Morwell would only create more division in an already divided city.”

Location revisit unnecessary

Advance Morwell chair John Guy raised concerns the review of the location of the performing arts centre would cause another “battle” between Morwell and Traralgon.

“I can understand doing a review of financial aspect. A lot has happened in the past two years in the federal and state governments,” Mr Guy said.

“But I think to start reviewing again the location of it is just going to put a divide through the council again and I think the timing is terrible with the new CEO on the scene, he’s going to walk into an argument between councillors.”

Mr Guy maintained the centre should be built at Kernot Hall because of Morwell’s central location and ample parking.

“It wouldn’t be taking anything away form Traralgon. My understanding was the last decision made by council was to maintain the existing performing arts centre in Traralgon,” Mr Guy said.

He said the review also had the potential to cause public campaigns that made Latrobe City appear “dysfunctional” to outsiders.