By Michelle Slater
Latrobe City Council has pressed pause on any plans to demolish the Visitor Information Centre building in Traralgon amid a barrage of community opposition.
Latrobe City councillors will now head out for further community consultation and will report back to reassess plans for Traralgon’s oldest standing church building, built in 1879.
Community members including former councillors fronted Latrobe City’s December meeting to outline flaws in processes dating back to 1992 which left the building off heritage registers.
The building had been pegged for protection in a heritage study adopted by the former City of Traralgon, but somehow plans went amiss in mid-90s municipal amalgamations.
Cr Dan Clancey acknowledged the “mistakes that were made along the way” while describing the situation as a “comedy of errors but no one is laughing at this”.
Cr Clancey also acknowledged councillors should have looked at these previous council reports before making any new decisions to bulldoze the building last month.
“It seems there were little mistakes and with each step that went along something was left behind,” Cr Clancey said.
“Council makes decisions with the best advice they have available at the time and the best options we have in front of us. The best advice we had at the time was to demolish the building.
“I wasn’t comfortable with it then and I’m not comfortable with it now.”
Latrobe City needs to remove the building by the Traralgon train station so the department of transport can create an open forecourt as part of a major station upgrade.
Relocation would cost ratepayers more than $670,000, but demolition and salvaging items such as timber door frames would cost $80,000.
Latrobe City had consulted with the Traralgon Community Development Association and historical society before agreeing to the demolition.
Cr Sharon Gibson admitted council had “stuffed up” and stated that council should have gone out for wider community consultation.
Cr Gibson had also asked if the department of transport could extend the lease on the land at the train station, so the building would not have to be relocated.
Former councillor Sheridan Bond spoke to council accusing Latrobe City of failing to explore a series of options or adequately consulting with the community before making its decision.
Ms Bond urged Latrobe City to include the building into a heritage overlay.
“It’s time to right the wrongs of the past and get the situation sorted out for the community who remain passionate about the preservation of this historic building, one of the two oldest buildings in Traralgon,” Ms Bond said.
By Michelle Slater