Arts centre ‘ideal’ for Traralgon

Traralgon has been recommended as the ideal location for a new Latrobe Valley performing arts and convention centre.

Consulting firm Geografia conducted an independent review looking into Morwell and Traralgon as potential hosts of the facility, focusing on community sentiment for the project, location, capital costs and operational costings.

Its draft report found Traralgon was the most appropriate site.

Latrobe City councillors will tonight vote whether to endorse the draft review and release it for public comment.

To gauge community sentiment as part of the review, 601 people were surveyed, showing 89 per cent were in favour of a new facility.

However, 60 per cent said they would support the refurbishment of existing facilities.

The review followed years of debate, after a 2009 feasibility study recommended sites in both Morwell and Traralgon as viable for the new facility.

Despite council officer recommendations that Traralgon was the best option, a vote for Morwell as the preferred site got majority support from councillors and it was chosen.

This also followed investigation of Churchill as a potential site, but it was ruled out.

“It was heart-breaking at the time for everyone involved in campaigning for it,” Traralgon Community Development Association president Axella Johannesson said.

“It was purely political shenanigans and it was snatched away.”

Advance Morwell president John Guy said he believed he knew how voting would unfold, as Moe councillors had previously sided with Traralgon councillors on the issue.

“Council is all about numbers and if you’ve got the numbers you can do anything and with Traralgon and Moe, they’ve got the numbers,” Mr Guy said.

He added results of the online survey available for resident submissions might not be accurate as it could have been filled out by anyone, many times.

Mr Guy and Advance Morwell maintain the performing arts and convention centre should be built at Kernot Lake, refurbishing Kernot Hall to use as a conference centre.

Ms Johannesson and the TCDA believed Traralgon had the facilities and location to support the centre because of its array of restaurants and central business district location.

However, Mr Guy believes the centre could resemble that of Warragul Performing Arts Centre with its own in-built cafe.

While Mr Guy believes an upgraded facility would serve Latrobe City well, he questions whether ratepayers and user groups can afford such a big project.

“I think a lot can be said to be putting money into existing facilities in Moe, Morwell and Traralgon to bring them up to standard,” Mr Guy said.

“A lot of the groups that use it are small groups that couldn’t afford to go into a brand new facility.”

Ms Johannesson welcomed tonight’s vote, saying it was overdue.

“If it is decided it’s to be built in Traralgon this time around we would be happy, but it’s our opinion that it would just be righting a grievous wrong done to Traralgon,” Ms Johannesson said.