Hotel Australasia saved in close council vote

Members of the community group who fought to save the Australasia Hotel were delighted with the result.
Members of the community group who fought to save the Australasia Hotel were delighted with the result.

To rousing applause from the Australasia Hotel community group, the council announced it would be negotiating to purchase the Eden hotel after a close 5-4 vote on the matter.

On Wednesday, BVSC voted to proceed with the option to purchase under the terms agreed with Southern Developments.

In going ahead with the purchase, council acknowledged it may have a funding commitment of up to $1 million to purchase, remediate the site and renovate the facade, subject to grant funding and community contribution.

Although all councillors were committed to the idea of preserving this piece of Edens history, some were unhappy about the funding commitment. However, group manager of strategy and business services Lucas Scarpin said costs had been built around a worst case scenario.

Saved: Eden's historic Hotel Australasia.

Saved: Eden's historic Hotel Australasia.

In speaking to her motion for the purchase of the hotel, Councillor Sharon Tapscott said it was a moment in time that would not come again.

This is an iconic building; there arent many like it in Eden, its a rare commodity.

Cr Tapscott said as council was financially fit for the future, it could invest because it had access to cheaper money.

Councillor Tony Allen was one of four councillors including Russell Fitzpatrick, Ann Mawhinney and Kristy McBain who expressed reservations about the funding commitment and ultimately voted against the motion.

Cr Allen said he was happy to support the purchase, but not the commitment to further funding.

I dont believe ratepayers should be asked to do any restoration. I fully support the need to keep it, but not with ratepayers money.

Cr Allen wanted to see the community taking responsibility for the renovation work. However, Mayor Michael Britten was adamant about the need for all the work to be done.

To exercise an option and do nothing is not an option. No-one would thank you for leaving it. We could not honestly purchase it and let it sit there and then if nothing happens just knock it down, Cr Britten said.

There was also mention of the 1400sqm at the rear of the building, which could be sold at a later stage, and the ability to provide access through to the car park.

Councillor Keith Hughes praised the community group.

He said their activism helped to save the building.