A Council decision on the sale of the Rex is imminent. The matter is likely to be on the agenda for the Council meeting on July 19.
Council purchased the Rex building in Vincent Street as a site for a community hub including a customer service centre, a library a community auditorium, public toilets and staff accommodation. As a result of a community outcry, Council later decided to include the cinema, already in operation in the building, in its plans for the renovation and refurbishment.
But poor planning and management resulted in massive cost blow outs and concerns about the suitability of the building. Late last year Council decided to abandon the project and sell the Rex.
It is a legislative requirement that the community is consulted about significant asset sales.
A community group, Rethink the Rex, now renamed Hepburn Matters, was established to lobby Council to retain the Rex in public ownership. Council was criticised by Rethink the Rex for its superficial consultation process and lack of engagement with the community.
Hepburn Matters has adopted a broader agenda focused on retention of heritage elements of the Rex, a community cinema, community spaces for meetings and performances, public toilets and a library.
Hepburn Matters believes that The Rex is vitally important to the social fabric of Daylesford. There were 1200 signatories to a petition sent to the Minister for Local Government when the council decided to remove the cinema from the Rex.
The Rex has been owned by the Shire for the past six years and for most of that time has been closed for renovations. Prior to purchase by Council, The Rex was privately owned from the time it was built in the 1920s.
The project failure has been the subject of a protracted and long overdue investigation by the Local Government Inspectorate. At the June Council meeting, former Councillor, Keith Pyers, requested that Council urges publication of the Local Government Inspectorate Report before the Victorian elections in November. He said that “it’s a bloody disgrace that it hasn’t been published already.”
Also at the June Council meeting, long-term local resident, Beverley Risstrom, urged council to utilize the knowledge, expertise and experience of community members and work together with them to reach a satisfactory outcome in relation to the Rex.
The Council consultation process is now nearing completion. Around 370 submissions from individuals and groups on the sale of the Rex have been received and Council officers are reviewing the submissions and the results of a community survey.
Previous local government satisfaction survey have identified that Hepburn Shire Council is below average for similar small regional councils on measures of consultation, communication and transparency but the current council has been working hard to improve satisfaction on these measures including for the consultation process on the Rex.
At the June meeting, local architect David Moore reminded Councillors that the Rex is protected by a heritage overlay in the Hepburn Planning scheme and that it has cultural and architectural significance for the community.
The matter will be considered at at the July Council meeting (5.30pm on 19 July), which will be livestreamed on our Facebook page. Alternatively members of the public can attend the meeting in person at the Daylesford Town Hall.