Australasia meeting leaves Whiter “hopeful”

Peter Whiter was cautiously “hopeful” following Thursday morning’s meeting with Land and Environment Court Commissioner Annelise Tuor, developer Rodney Thompson of Great Southern Developments, Bega Valley Shire Council manager of planning services Keith Tull, and a retinue of heritage experts, solicitors and town planners.

The conciliation meeting was the first attempt by the Land and Environment Court to resolve a dispute between the developer of the Hotel Australasia site and Bega Valley Shire Council.

Great Southern Developments purchased the site in 2012, and proposed to demolish the hotel and build a third supermarket in Eden.

This has been strongly opposed by members of the local community, and Bega Valley Shire Council, who moved to heritage list the turn-of-the-century building in April.

The developer took that matter to the Land and Environment Court after the Development Application was denied.

mr Whiter, a builder by trade and self-decreed “public representative number one” in support of not demolishing the iconic pub, was pleased to be called on to attend the hearing.

“I was approached by Bega Valley Shire Council to speak on their behalf about the building, the development, the process that’s happened so far,” he said.

“It’s good to be recognised by council as a serious element in the community.

“The Commissioner wanted to hear all sides.

“There seemed to be plenty of time and I made a very short, to-the-point speech.”

Mr Whiter had some concerns about the conciliation process.

 “It’s a very stumbly process,” he said.

“The commissioner hears it today. It goes back into the Land and Environment Court. Then it depends on what the judge determines.

“If the developer doesn’t like the way this process is happening, they can appeal for another commissioner, and it starts all over again.”

However, Mr Whiter said that at the end of today’s meeting, he was hopeful that the old pub, often described as Eden’s heart and soul, may still have a future.

“I feel hopeful that something is going to stay there.

“But I suppose it’s a process that’s got to be gone through and we’ll keep turning up.

“If we get a call from council that they need our support, we’re there.

“But it’s never been about just retaining the building façade, it’s always been the building.

“Not the entire building that stands there (today), just the 10 or 12 metres of the original 1906 build.

“If all they can save is the façade, then it’s ruined, it’s gone.  

“If that 10 or 12 metres, the original front section of the building can be retained, that’s a massive win.

“If it can be re-used, that’s an even bigger win.”