Craig Warhurst

Heritage issues ‘in with the old'

PRESERVING the Gympie Region’s built heritage is not as simple as it seems, apparently.

Acting chairman of Gympie Regional Council’s Planning and Development Committee Jan Watt says community involvement may be an important part of fulfilling hopes to restore the historic timber railway footbridge at Tozer Street, which is not, strictly speaking, a council structure.

The old Goomeri train station may have to be removed to a new site if it is to be preserved as a working community building.

And in a strange irony, it seems the Elgin Vale Sawmill can only be preserved in any practical way, by not including it in the Queensland Heritage Register.

The difficulties of keeping the past alive into the future occupied a fair bit of council’s present at this week’s meeting of Cr Watt’s committee.

Cr Watt said she hoped community concern about the Tozer Street footbridge, which crosses the old rail line at the Railway Hotel, might translate into a community effort to restore it to a safer condition.

Councillors also considered a proposal to heritage list the Goomeri train Station, with the possibility that its preservation may require someone to buy it from Queensland Rail and shift it to a new site, where it could be home for a number of community uses.

At Elgin Vale, the problems are more complex.

Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett said there was nothing to stop the historic steam mill being fired up and operated, but there is real trouble doing this in a way that meets both heritage and workplace health and safety requirements.

Safety shielding on the equipment had been an urgent “quick-fix” by the old Kilkivan Shire Council, but was not consistent with its heritage appearance.

Also, while it made the mill safe for the public to view, it was less safe for the operator, because the safety equipment would block an operator’s vision.

Responding to an approach from the Queensland Heritage Council about heritage listing for the mill, councillors expressed concerns that listing would place extra costly responsibilities on the council, including a requirement that any renovation and maintenance use materials similar to those used originally.

“You can’t just replace rusty iron with Colorbond, for example,” Cr Donna Neilson said yesterday.

“It certainly tells a story, but we are concerned about the cost of maintaining it, sometimes with materials which may be hard to source today,” she said. A former Heritage Council member, Cr Neilson will use that experience to present oral evidence to a Heritage Council hearing later this month.

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