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Allan demands answers on Bendigo's Fortuna Villa

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan MP, has called on the Liberal-National Government to cease its dithering on the future of Fortuna Villa.

Speaking in State Parliament, Ms Allan questioned the Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan, on whether the Liberal-National Government intends to take up the Federal Government's offer of a right of purchase of the Fortuna Villa site.

"The action I am seeking from the Minister is that he make a very clear statement to the Bendigo community on the Government's behalf about its intention. Does it intend to either accept or reject an offer from the Commonwealth Government that is currently sitting on the table to have what is known as a first right of refusal on the rejuvenation of the Fortuna Villa site?" Ms Allan said.

Ms Allan told the Victoria Parliament that Fortuna Villa is a prized community asset for the people of Bendigo, and spoke of the significant history of the site, and the keenness of the Bendigo community to have the site retained as a community facility.

"The previous Labor government made a $7 million funding commitment to invest in the future of the site. This commitment was not matched by the then Liberal-Nationals Opposition.

"Disappointingly, the local Liberal-National representative Damian Drum is attempting to muddy the waters by claiming that the site's future is in the hands of the Federal Government. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"The Commonwealth is waiting, as it has been for some time, for an answer from the Victorian government. Its intention is clear. What it needs is an answer from the Victorian government.," Ms Allan said.

Ms Allan challenged the government to clearly define its actions, asking whether the government supported the Fortuna Villa site being retained for community use, and whether it would support it financially.

"The Bendigo community very much wants to see the Fortuna Villa retained as a community asset."

"Now in Government the Coalition has, after 12 months, failed to make it clear whether it will or will not take up the commonwealth's offer. As a result the site and its future are in limbo."

"These are important questions for the future", Ms Allan said.


Hansard attached, 6 December 2011

Hansard, 6 December 2011

Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East) -- I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Regional and Rural Development regarding the future use of the historic Fortuna Villa site in Bendigo.

The action I am seeking from the minister is that he make a very clear statement to the Bendigo community on the government's behalf about its intention.

Does it intend to either accept or reject an offer from the commonwealth government that is currently sitting on the table to have what is known as a first right of refusal on the rejuvenation of the Fortuna Villa site?

The site is the location of a historic building, which has played a very important role in the history of Bendigo as a goldmining city.

The building was the former home of the quartz king, George Lansell, and the home, outbuildings and the grounds have historic features in their architecture. For many decades the Department of Defence occupied the site but moved out only a few years ago.

In vacating the premises the commonwealth made it very clear that it did not intend to keep the property as a commonwealth managed or owned site. The commonwealth wrote to the former Victorian government offering it the opportunity to be first responder on any future use of the site.

I also make the point that the community very much wants to see the Fortuna Villa retained as a community asset, as was evidenced by the 5000 people who attended an open day a couple of years ago to look at the site.
The Labor government examined this issue closely.

An assessment was undertaken on the buildings and surrounds about what would be needed to start a new chapter in the history of the Fortuna Villa.

A proposal was put to the commonwealth, part of which was a vision for it to be retained as a community asset. As part of that proposal the previous government made a $7 million funding commitment to invest in the future of the site.

This commitment was not matched by the then Liberal-Nationals opposition.

Now in government the coalition government has, after 12 months, failed to make it clear whether it will or will not take up the commonwealth's offer. As a result the site and its future are in limbo.

Disappointingly, the local Liberal-Nationals representative, Damian Drum, a member for Northern Victoria Region in the other place, has been desperately trying to muddy the waters, claiming this is a matter for the commonwealth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The commonwealth is waiting, as it has been for some time, for an answer from the Victorian government. Its intention is clear. What it needs is an answer from the Victorian government.

Only the Victorian government can answer the question about what it intends to do with Fortuna Villa site, and that is why the following points need to be addressed.

Does the Victorian government support the retention of Fortuna Villa as an asset to be used by the local community?

Will it repeat the expression of interest in the site?

Is it prepared to make a financial contribution towards the restoration of the Fortuna Villa site?

These are important questions about the future.

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