Further discussions to take place on historic building’s future

The former Methodist church building in Traralgon is one of only five pre-1880 timber churches left in Gippsland. file photograph

By Michelle Slater

A community steering committee has been formed to look at alternative options for a pre-1880 Methodist church building in Traralgon destined for demolition.

It comes as new information has revealed that the building had been overlooked for a heritage assessment in 2004, despite being listed as a potentially significant building.

A meeting with about 50 people was held in Traralgon on Tuesday night which included  Latrobe City Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan and council health and wellbeing officer Gail Gatt as panellists.

Cr O’Callaghan said she would take the community’s concerns back to Latrobe City and raise a notice of motion at Monday’s ordinary December council meeting.

Regional historian Linda Barraclough read documents from a heritage consultant that stated the building was overlooked in a Latrobe City heritage study about 15 years ago.

Ms Barraclough said the building was only one of five pre-1880 timer churches left in Gippsland, making it what she described as a “rare bird’.

The 1879 former Methodist Church building had been moved toward the back of its original site in 1955 to make way for a large brick hall.

It was later moved again to the Traralgon train station where it became the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre.

However, Ms Barraclough said the consultant was unaware the original timber church had been moved and did not carry out an assessment, despite earlier documents earmarking it as significant.

Latrobe City had agreed to demolish the building last month but will salvage significant items including timber doorframes and panelling.

The building sits on state government-owned land which is at the end of its lease, but it needs to be removed to turn the area into an open forecourt as part of a major station upgrade.

Relocation would cost ratepayers more than $670,000, whereas and demolition and salvaging items would cost $80,000.

The building could not be relocated without significant repairs, which included new bracing, panelling, internal framing, floorboards and frames, and demolishing a storage room making it lean.

Cr O’Callaghan assured the meeting that “nothing had been progressed” beyond council’s initial decision and there was “no immediacy to stop anything from happening”.