Loco shed finally finds a ‘home’

By Riverine Herald

CAMPASPE Shire has sold the land, which includes the heritage listed Loco Shed on Sturt St, to the Echuca Loco Shed for $150.

Mayor Adrian Weston said the decision would ‘‘consolidate’’ the land and building into a ‘‘single ownership’’.

‘‘As opposed to the previous situation which has it split between the entity and council,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a building that has been there for a long time. Like a lot of the historical buildings that were built in Echuca they have the historic value and there’s an ongoing desire by the community to see the buildings retained, maintained and ideally, where it can be, re-purposed for the community.’’

Going forward, Cr Weston said that the group was already looking at a ‘‘few options’’.

‘‘The challenge first and foremost has been to preserve the value of the building, as has been the intention all along,’’ he said.

‘‘It has it’s own heritage listing ... so their plan will be to maintain that but beyond that I am not sure.’’

At the council meeting Cr Neil Pankhurst said council’s decision would allow the group to pursue funding opportunities and develop a business plan going forward.

Cr Leanne Pentreath was successful in amending the motion so that should the Loco Shed group become insolvent, council will be given first right to transfer ownership back to council.

But Cr Annie Vickers did not support the move.

‘‘I’m very disappointed that Cr Pentreath showed such little faith in the community of Echuca that’s worked tirelessly since 1984, and the people on the board are outstanding businessmen in the town ... that’s why I speak against it,’’ she said.

Cr Neil Pankhurst said it was a reasonable amendment.

‘‘It in fact recognises the value of the asset ... as the report says it (the land) is valued between $350,000 to $450,000 ... I don’t think it’s unreasonable ... that council should be given first opportunity to decide on that land and the buildings on it,’’ he said at the meeting.

Cr Leigh Wilson said the amendment was ‘‘very sound’’ and he was confident ratepayers would want council to have a vested interest in it.

‘‘This is really around governance ... the people behind this have absolutely the best intentions,’’ he said.

‘‘Things change, and issues arise, but good governance would dictate that should issues arise that a building that has been saved from collapse for the broader community would have that same protection ... to ensure the longevity of this infrastructure.’’

In 1986 the Echuca River Development Society, now known as Loco Shed Echuca, bought the loco shed building from V/Line for $10 to ensure the preservation of the structure.

Then in 1992, Echuca City Council bought the land from the Public Transport Corporation for $25,000.

Six years later the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) revised the historical status of the building to one of state significance.

In 2014 council commissioned a Conservation Management Plan for the shed which investigated three elements including the aesthetic, historical, scientific and social significance of the site and an interpretation strategy to celebrate the heritage of the building.

The CMP identified potential future uses for the building and site including function centre, railway interpretation centre, tourist attraction. Since the plan was published, minimal works have been completed.