Dear Editor,

Hepburn Shire’s longest running soap opera has some twists and turns yet to run.

In case you missed the latest episode councillors resolved that spending a further $6.3m plus an unspecified amount to finish the building was just a bridge too far. That decision triggered the process to sell the building, a process that legislation mandates must include consultation with the community.

If you cut through the indignation and hysteria around the misplaced notion of “why weren’t we consulted ?” the reality is that the building’s fate is now in the community’s hands. Put forward some constructive ideas that would justify its retention and Council is bound to seriously take them into account and evaluate their viability.

If the Municipal Inspectorate ever releases its investigation report perhaps it will explain why and how a building that was rejected in 2014 as the site for the proposed Hub was bought for $6.345m in 2016. How and why a further $3m was spent on what has been described as (allegedly) substandard works is also an unanswered question. The community will need reassurance history’s lessons on project management and governance have been learned by the current councillors.

Surely the key components of the Hub can be accommodated in other sites. The Daylesford library building for example could be expanded upwards or outwards. The renovation of Council’s existing office accommodation sites must also be explored so that staff have a decent workspace.

Councillors resolved to assist the Cinema Group find a new home. Instead of choosing to work with Council the group has elected, so far, to reject that assistance and launch several attacks, including a petition to have our democratically elected representatives removed ! Perhaps working together might lead to a better outcome for the community. Just a thought.

When it comes to communication Council is its own worst enemy. Information on the sale process for the Rex and the rationale for the November 2021 decision has been limited to a confusing trickle. Individual councillors are silenced and hamstrung by legislation. The community is then left in the dark and misinformation flourishes.

For those inclined to closely monitor proceedings recent Council meetings and publications have disturbingly spoken of a “tight” financial position, including the intriguing concept of “negative unrestricted cash”, a lack of strategic plans to address all of Council’s buildings, including Daylesford Town Hall, huge staff turnover and planning backlogs and the notion of shire-wide value. One can only wonder what the ratepayers of Creswick, Clunes, Trentham, Glenlyon and beyond think of a $16-17m building in Daylesford and its benefit to them. Maybe the current survey will shed some light on that.

And to digress, why couldn’t the cinema be housed in a suitably renovated Daylesford Town Hall ?

Would the millions of ratepayers’ dollars be better spent on a heated indoor aquatic facility ?

While the Rex is (arguably, and unduly) an emotive topic for some it may be exposing some bigger questions on the state of affairs at Hepburn Shire Council and its long-term viability and capacity to provide the community with the services and infrastructure it needs.

Allan Smith