‘Save the Pit’ efforts on track

The top veranda ceiling space inside the Hotel Australasia, behind where the name is painted on the building’s exterior, gives an indication of what lies behind the present 1950s façade. Photo: Peter Whiter.

The top veranda ceiling space inside the Hotel Australasia, behind where the name is painted on the building’s exterior, gives an indication of what lies behind the present 1950s façade. Photo: Peter Whiter.

Efforts to save the Hotel Australasia are progressing well ahead of the Thursday deadline put in place by developer Rodney Thompson, who has offered to sell off a section of the building that includes the original 1906 façade and front 15 metres, for $500,000.

The plan is to restore the 1906 look and turn it into a commercial building, possibly including a wine or tapas bar, and art gallery.

A group including Eden builder and ‘Save the Pit’ campaigner Peter Whiter, historian and heritage expert Angela George, and the Wykes family are working around the clock to secure support and meet the deadline, but Mr Thompson says it is not 100 per cent set in stone.

“If they can show us on Thursday that they’ve made serious progress, and we believe that they’ve engaged the right people and had the right discussions, we might be able to look at giving them more time,” Mr Thompson said.

“It wouldn’t be much; definitely no more than a week.

“We’ve obviously got financial commitments, and the longer we leave it without starting construction, the more it costs us.

“[The offer] is really about giving the community a chance to put their hands up and be counted.

“The offer we’ve made is, we believe, a very reasonable offer for that building, and now they’ve got a chance to do the homework we’ve done in the past and see if they can find a tenant and get it all going.” 

The ‘Save the Pit’ group met with Bega Valley Shire Council acting general manager Wayne Sartori and Mayor Bill Taylor on Thursday to discuss Mr Thompson’s proposal, which was made after retired Retravision owner Graeme Wykes put the suggestion to the developer a few weeks ago.

Cr Taylor confirmed that the meeting took place, but says Council has made no commitment to purchase the front section of the building, and has not had discussions with the developer to that effect.

“They brought us up to date on what the proposal from the developer is, and we certainly listened to what they had to say,” he said.

“They were going to go away and come back with some more concrete figures in regards to how much it would cost to restore the 1906 façade.

“We’re just interested listeners, and we’re just hoping to see what develops at this point; there’s absolutely no commitment from us.”

Mr Whiter said the meeting was “largely positive”, and the group is now working on putting figures together.

The ‘Save the Pit’ group is now calling on members of the community to assist by making an expression of interest about how much they would be willing to donate to a community fund, with the money to be used to help restore the 1906 façade.

Mr Whiter said that every donation will help the group to demonstrate community support for the retention and revitalisation of the hotel, and also potentially help secure larger contributions.

“No matter how small or large they are, any pledge helps.

“If one person gives us $20 and tells their mate, and they go and tell their mate, we end up with $60.

“Then if we are successful in obtaining a heritage grant where the government matches donations dollar for dollar, we have $120.

“That’s just from three people; if everyone chips in just a bit, it will go a long way.”

Expressions of interest regarding pledges can be emailed to australasiarescue@yahoo.com.au

Bega Valley Shire councillors voted to approve a Development Application to demolish the iconic hotel on July 30.

Great Southern Developments intends to build a supermarket, liquor store and retail tenancy on the site.

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