Daylesford Community Theatre, along with  Daylesford Cinema supporters, patrons and interested community members are calling on the Minister for Local Government to replace Hepburn Shire Council with an Administrator.

The Theatre group is running an on line petition through Change.Org in response to the Council’s decision to abandon the Hepburn Hub at the Rex project. The Hub would have provided and auditorium for the Cinema, a library and office space for Council staff.

The project was abandoned last month after a long history of changing decisions, delays, mismanagement and a massive cost escalation which saw the total cost of the project more than double from initial estimates. The current Councillors inherited the Rex problem from previous elected Councils and Council officers and made a difficult decision that it was not justifiable to allocate additional funds for what would become a $15 million on the project given the potential for further cost increases and the difficult financial circumstances Council is facing.

The Council plans to sell the Rex and explore other options for the Cinema, the library and office accommodation for staff.

Hepburn Shire Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie, said, “We appreciate that members of the community, in particular the cinema group, are disappointed by the decision of Council to cease the project, however, this decision was made in accordance with all relevant governance rules and the Local Government Act. Council welcomes petitions that meet the criteria under Local Law 1.  It is also important to understand that Council’s decision at the November meeting in relation to the sale is the start of the process, there needs to be community engagement and a valuation process prior to Council considering the sale.”

An independent inquiry into Council management of the community hub project has been conducted by the Municipal Inspectorate. However, despite pressure from the current Council and the community, the report has still be be made public.

The Inspectorate report does not consider more recent developments in the Rex project. “Council is currently awaiting the outcome of a Local Government Inspectorate report into the Hepburn Hub at The Rex, said Cr Drylie. “The report investigates the issues regarding the project in early stages and is not related to Council’s recent decision to terminate the Hepburn Hub at The Rex project.”

In response to questions about the release of the report from the Wombat Post, Chief Municipal Inspector Michael Stefanovic  has said, “We have completed our investigation of Hepburn Shire Council and there is a necessary legal process to go through before investigation outcomes are made public. As this process is not finished, we cannot comment further on the publication of a report.”

Over 550 people have now signed the petition to remove the Councillors and appoint and administrator. The Local Government Act allows for the appointment of an administrator when a Council fails to provide good governance.

The petition argues that the Council has mismanaged the Rex project, failed to consult the community on its decision to abandon the Rex, wasted community money and failed to provide accommodation for the library, staff and the cinema.

The petition will be presented to the Minister for Local Government.

The Committee of the Daylesford Community Theatre Group is also calling on members to ask questions and address Council on the issues raised in the petition at the next Council meeting which is to be held on Tuesday the 21st of December.