DEPUTY Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan made a special visit to his electorate of Gippsland South last Friday to announce a massive injection of state government funding – $420,000 plus – to upgrade four local halls.
To an excited crowd of 50 or so assembled in the Mount Best Hall, Mr Ryan announced that the government would contribute $282,750 towards the Corner Inlet Halls Network Redevelopment Project to redevelop and upgrade the community halls at Mt Best, Toora and Hedley and a further $139,650 towards restoration of the Meeniyan Mechanics Institute Hall.
The Corner Inlet Halls Network Redevelopment Project is funded through the government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund Putting Locals First Program.
South Gippsland Shire Council will contribute $34,250 towards the $377,000 project, with the local hall committees funding the remainder. The Toora Hall Committee is contributing $40,000, the Mt Best Hall Committee $15,000 and the Hedley Hall Committee $5,000.
The funding will allow Mt Best Hall to receive a major extension to the eastern side of the present structure, including a meeting room, toilets, storage area and upgrade to kitchen facilities. Despite the ancient kitchen, the hall committee managed to provide a delicious spread of afternoon tea for Friday’s guests.
At Toora the existing asbestos roof of the hall will be replaced with a functional and safe roof, after safely removing the asbestos, while Hedley Hall will get new toilet facilities.
“If places like this could talk, what stories they would tell!” remarked Mr Ryan. Reminding the assembled throng that he had had a country upbringing – in Lockington – he said he knew the importance of local halls to the communities they served. He praised the hall committees who have worked so hard to secure money for their local facilities, saying they were the heart and soul of their communities.
Mary Biemans, the president of Toora Hall Committee, spoke on behalf of the Halls Network. She thanked Mr Ryan for the state government funding and thanked South Gippsland Shire Council for its contribution. She said it had been a long road – four years – and along the way there had been fears that the Toora Hall would have to close if funding was not secured for a new roof.
She thanked the people from within and even outside the Toora district who had responded to the membership drive, so that hall funds increased and she paid tribute to the Halls Network.
When she was working as South Gippsland Shire’s community facilitator in the eastern region of the shire, Marzia Maurilli encouraged the communities of Toora, Mt Best, Hedley, Welshpool, Port Welshpool and Port Franklin to form the Corner Inlet Halls Network in order to be better placed to secure funding for priority projects. The network decided to concentrate efforts on the halls in most need of an upgrade – at Toora, Mt Best and Hedley.
Council Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin thanked Marzia Maurilli, along with the shire’s Community Strengthening Manager, Ned Dennis, and Grants Officer Penni Ellicott, for their work in securing the funding.
“We’ve been on tenterhooks not knowing if we would get the money, so to get it is very exciting. It’s a feather in our cap and shows what small communities in this district can achieve,” said Ms Biemans.
Brian Hoskins voiced the thanks of the people of Meeniyan for the funding for that hall. He said the hall, which was built in 1938 and designed to be very good acoustically – “some say it’s the best in Victoria,” – was a very well used community asset and an international and national venue for music through the Lyrebird Arts Council. “But the poor old girl’s getting tired.”
Meeniyan Hall needs the rotting timbers of its windows and doors replaced, asbestos cladding removed, two unused doors filled in and a new door created. The building also requires rewiring, insulation and a repaint.
The Meeniyan Mechanics Hall Committee is providing $26,550 towards the project, and $20,000 is coming from South Gippsland Shire Council.
It is hoped work can be carried out on all four halls over the next six months, but much will depend on the weather. Guests battled wind and rain to get to Mt Best Hall for the funding announcement last Friday. Mayor Warren Raabe even went so far as to say that he now recognised there was a need for improved drainage on the road up the mountain. “Rest assured, it’s on top of my mind!”