Thursday, 2 January 2014

Diggers Rest Hotel - To Demolish or Keep

What's the problem with knocking down the old Diggers Rest pub?

A deliberately lit fire in October, 2008, destroyed most of the building; some walls and the chimney remain but are part-covered in graffiti. As reported by the Melton and Moorabool Weekly, there has been a long-running battle between the council, residents and the hotel’s owners over a resolution.

The arsonist caused more than $1 million damage. The pub could have been demolished and a new one built within the first twelve months. However, several Diggers Rest residents lobbied the Melton Council to claim that it was local heritage and therefore had to be preserved as much as possible. See Melton Leader article.

The Co-owner Roger Smith wanted to demolish the hotel as soon as possible and said that it was important the community had a pub. However the cost and time of rebuilding would increase if the original walls had to be retained. We believe that the costs of retaining the original structure exceeded the hotel building insurance.

The demands caused a stalemate and so the ruins remained.

A proposal was put forward by Mr. David O'Conner in 2011 that the council consider buying the hotel and establish a management committee to gather funding and redevelop the site. This proposal does not seemed to have developed. See Melton Leader article 2

In 2013, five years after the fire, some Diggers Rest residents formed a lobby group to to demand that the hotel be demolished because it is an eyesore. See Melton and Moorabool Weekly article.

Nothing is happening yet other than the security fence is up to deter litterers.

Is there a lesson here? Some of the same people who originally fought against the demolition are now demanding that the pub be demolished.

Would a new hotel in the same location make business sense? Recent proposed town plans indicate that the town commercial centre should be moved away from the old Calder Highway and the proposed Outer Ring Road is planned to block Calder highway access to hotel.

Could the ruin be renovated as a historical feature? It was built in 1854- two years older than South Australia's famous Kanyaka Ruins that are a tourist attraction in the Flinders Ranges.

What should happen to the hotel ruin? 

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