Opinion – Civic Hall Precinct remains a fiasco and must be sorted

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Ron Egeberg

I am astounded that our councillors have not only stopped the redevelopment process for the Civic Hall site, but have now announced that there has been no business case put forward to date for its adaptive re-use. Or are there other influences at play to make a last-ditch push for it to be demolished, which is against the will of the community?

To my mind, this is a matter of planning to deliberately fail, which frankly doesn’t surprise me.

This inept council, as well as previous ones, has not shown the will or leadership to resolve this issue. We deserve better.

I thought it was agreed that the hall would be retained as part of the redevelopment of the whole site.  My understanding was that it would undergo adaptive re-use and become a multipurpose space, or have I been on another planet!

If this were private enterprise, heads would roll over this debacle and, hopefully, this will happen at the general election – to be held on 22 October.

Ballarat has become a laughing stock of people/businesses wishing to add value to property. I am aware of many who have sought planning approvals from this council and have hit bureaucratic snags. Unfortunately, indecision and delay seem to be this council’s modus operandi.

I am sure when Justine Linley commences her position as the new CEO of the City of Ballarat, she will review all of council’s operations, a move I support wholeheartedly. If I am fortunate to be elected as a councillor in October this year, I want to be assured that Justine and her team are working to make council a transparent, effective and efficient organisation that will be timely in its decision-making. And, yes, one of my priorities will be to facilitate the resolution of the Civic Hall site mess.

Why has Council not sought support from the state and federal governments for the development of the site? Why does council continue to make decisions in isolation, without considering the bigger picture at this site – the mix of the Civic Hall, government offices and a hotel/apartments at the site complementing each other and adding to the revitalisation of the CBD.

When are we going to engage with the community through having a long-term vision for the CBD based on Ballarat being a vibrant city with a safe CBD, where people can live, do business, socialise, shop, and be educated and entertained. They will also have a railway station that is a transport hub for the city that has uncluttered public space and serves as Ballarat’s future meeting place. It is one of the rare regional cities that has its station adjacent to the CBD.

This will only happen when we understand how a 21st-century CBD of a city should function. It should be a vibrant, connected, high-density activity centre, consisting of a mix of private and public investment that provides accessibility and a diversity of activities.

As we move forward, I assure you that if I am elected, I will take appropriate steps, with the community’s support, to make this happen. Unfortunately, indecision and delay have been the failings of this and previous councils as demonstrated by their paralysis to resolve the issues of the Civic Hall precinct, the station precinct, the saleyards, the Eureka Stadium, the showgrounds and the Visitor Information Centre.

This is the 21st century, yet more happened in the 19th century for Ballarat in terms of its position as a leading-edge regional city. If you doubt this, do your research. Things just have to get better. Working together, they will.

 

Ballarat must attend the Historical Cities Conference

It is unfortunate that there are those who do not appreciate the intrinsic value of history and heritage, particularly in our own city. The issue of whether council should send representatives to the League of Historical Cities (LHC) World Conference in Bad Ischl, Austria, in June has become and issue of money over history and heritage.

I had the privilege of being the Master of Ceremonies for the 2006 WLOHC conference that was held here in Ballarat. That conference proved to me how valuable it was for Ballarat, a city blessed with history and heritage, to belong to the League of Historical Cities.

Let me explain why Ballarat is a member of the league.

For the record, the City of Ballarat became a member of the LHC in 1998 and is now one of 110 cities from 63 countries who belong to it. Ballarat’s heritage is part of the rich tapestry of who we are as a place and a community.

Tomorrow’s heritage is also evolving today through its young people, residents, new community members, and business community. It’s important that we celebrate and share our history and heritage with the rest of the world and learn from others how to best preserve and capitalise on this valuable asset we have.

The WLOHC aims to strengthen affiliations between historical cities to exchange knowledge and experience and ultimately, world peace by ‘deepening mutual understanding’ and ‘building on the common foundation of historical cities to strengthen affiliations between cities’. The WLHC is in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

The league also aims to preserve heritage and promote sustainable tourism, manage and conserve heritage. To have good management of heritage places, there is a strong need to improve international cooperation and have shared experiences and knowledge.

As a director city on the League of Historical Cities Board, Ballarat must at least attend the biennial world conference if not the board meetings that are also held in the year between the conference as well.

The appropriate personnel to attend the conference from council are the Mayor, Cr Des Hudson, the portfolio councillor for history and heritage, Cr Samantha McIntosh and the council’s coordinator heritage strategy, Susan Fayad.

As a board member city, Ballarat should also be making a presentation at one of the sessions and a report should also be provided on return from Austria on the value and knowledge gained from the conference.

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This post was written by , posted on May 29, 2016 Sunday at 6:12 pm

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