Fate of historic, heritage-listed Gympie mill up in the air
The future of a piece of Gympie and Queensland’s timber industry is up in the air with plans for its conservation challenged by a familiar concern: who will foot the bill?
A draft conservation management plan for the heritage listed Elgin Vale Sawmill at Manumbar Road has this week been presented to Gympie councillors as part of an ongoing push to preserve the historic site, which played a key role in the growth of the region’s timber industry.
The mill itself was built in 1944 to replace one that had operated on the site since 1927; it shut down in 1986.
The question of what next has lingered for years and the plan put to the council at Wednesday’s workshop proposes transforming the mill into a museum.
Unfortunately, there was still a key piece missing from the 103-page report: the cost.
“It’s a rather large issue,” councillor Bob Fredman said.
“The dollar signs ring loud when you see the structure.
“We have a wonderful conservation management plan but that doesn’t fix anything.”
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Mr Fredman questioned whether the council would have the money do to “even the minimum amount of work”.
Some restoration work was done at the mill by Private Forestry Service Qld, which leased the site until the end of the 2019-20 financial year.
A staff report presented with the draft management plan said PFSQ had returned the mill to the council’s control as “they struggled to source sufficient grant funding” to continue repairing the site.
As a heritage listed building the council is required to abide legislation, which includes the ability for the state government to demand essential repair and maintenance be carried out on the property if necessary “to protect the place from damage or deterioration caused by weather, fire, vandalism or insects”.
Mr Fredman said it would be a “brave government that tried that trick because we have to live within our means”.
The previous owners (forestry) have completed some restoration work at the mill but council asset management director Gordon Magann told councillors there was still more to be done.
“The plan is great but without any costings it’s just a plan,” council CEO Shane Gray said.
The staff report said federal grant money would be targeted in the coming years to help restore the heritage building.