Petition calls for rebuild of hall

Geoff VivianMidwest Times
Contractors demolished Port Denison Fishermen's Hall just before the October Local Government elections.
Camera IconContractors demolished Port Denison Fishermen's Hall just before the October Local Government elections. Credit: John Fitzhardinge

An electors’ meeting called after the Shire of Irwin demolished the historic Fishermen’s Hall at Port Denison has left opponents still wanting answers.

Among the 35 irate electors who turned out for last week’s meeting was former Shire president John Fitzhardinge, who said they had not had the answers they sought.

“They said ‘we need more time to answer them’,” he said.

Last Monday’s meeting was called when Mr Fitzhardinge lodged a petition with 271 signatures, obliging the council to hold the meeting under the relevant laws.

“When I presented the petition they didn’t want to accept it,” he said.

“The president’s view was that the whole thing was pointless now because the hall no longer existed.”

Contractors bulldozed the building a few days before last month’s election, retaining the internal timber uprights and roof trusses which were the only remaining parts of the original 19th-century structure.

Despite this, Shire president Mike Smith and two of the three other councillors who stood for re-election retained their seats.

Mr Fitzhardinge called the meeting to explain a proposal by the Irwin District Historical Society and Dongara Professional Fishermen’s Association to return the hall’s appearance to that of the original structure.

“The total cost of this work would be funded by the DPFA,” he wrote in the petition. Included in this refurbishment will be the creation of a maritime museum reflecting the historical uses such as a bond store, community hall, a bank and, over the past 50 years, being the home of the DPFA.”

Mr Fitzhardinge said during this “long time” the DPFA had been responsible for the building’s upkeep including a $200,000 refurbishment, and proposed the museum would be operated by the historical society.

He said opponents also wanted to discuss council’s refusal to give sufficient time for the joint proposal to be developed and urged the council to reconsider the decision.

“Finally, we wish to allow the public to express their views in regard to this proposal,” he wrote.

“It is our view that the council has not been willing to accept previous consultations, which overwhelmingly supported retention of this historical building.”

Mr Smith has been contacted for comment.

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