Community rallies to fund co-op VCAT appeal

April 8, 2021 BY

A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $20,000 towards legal fees in hopes to stop the demolition of the coastal town's fishing co-operative building. Pictured is an artist's impression of the proposed replacement building.

LORNE residents are rallying together to fund the VCAT appeal set to determine the future of the Fisherman’s Co-operative building.

The community funded appeal aims to prevent the destruction of the building they claim holds “cultural and historical significance”.

Ian Lovell set up the GoFundMe page originally aiming for $17,000 to cover the legal expenses but has since raised the target amount to $24,000 due to an overwhelming response.

A proposal has been earmarked since 2019 to demolish the 75-year-old building along with the seafood restaurant under massive redevelopments lodged by GORCC, now known as GORCAPA.

The planning permit was approved by the Surf Coast Shire council but now awaits a VCAT trial set to commence on April 12.

“We have incredible support from people, including the majority of Lorne residents, non-residents and visitors who are not in favour of the co-op building being demolished,” Mr Lovell said.

“That building represents a very large part of Lorne’s history where fishermen built houses, raised families and significantly contributed to the life of Lorne and why it is such a lovely and prosperous place to live today.”

With $20,460 in community donations at the time of print, Mr Lovell said there was a strong push to retain and repurpose the building under its current name.

“Around the world fishing ports are being renovated and turned into museums and that’s what tourists want to see,” he said.

“If you destroy that building you destroy a very valuable link to the past.”

The heritage value of the current building has come into question with some residents claiming the fishing co-op building should have been listed for heritage overlay while others say there are still some provisions in place that protect the site.

The 2005 Panel report under the Surf Coast Planning Scheme Amendment C15 declared the fishing co-operative building to have “historical and social significance for its associations with the development of the pier and fishing industry in Lorne in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The review went on to mention a conversation with GORCC about the building being altered more than previously thought and that it could be replaced providing its replacement responded to the “scale, bulk and appearance of the existing setting”.

“The inclusion of the land under the co-op buildings is therefore not only for its historical and social value, but to also ensure that any new development responds to the existing setting,” it reads.

Mr Lovell said while GORCAPA are not the same entity that lodged the planning application, he believes they could be doing more.

“They have adopted all the recommendations from GORCC,” he said. “All we are doing is asking them to recommend to Planning Minister Richard Wynn that he review the decision to proceed.”

Buildings such as the Queenscliff and Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-operative buildings are already protected by heritage overlays for the significance these structures played in forming the town’s history.

“If it wasn’t for this VCAT application we would be looking at the initial stages of development,” Mr Lovell said.

“Lorne cannot afford to lose any more social, cultural and historical connections.”