That paragraph (1) be omitted.
This is a serious issue and a serious debate. It is a serious
issue for the local community of Hepburn Springs, Daylesford and the surrounding
It has not been helpful for us to sit through a debate that has
had a sprinkling of jocular comments: we have had comments about rubber duckies,
bathroom renovations, flushing of toilets and kitchen renovations, and I really
do not think that will have too much traction with the community in Hepburn
Springs and Daylesford. I say to the community of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs
that this clearly is a debate brought about by a shadow minister with a new
portfolio who is searching for some sort of relevance. The issues we have been
taken through so far this morning really show the local community is being held
in absolute disregard.
My connection with the area and the bathhouse in particular
goes back to the early 1980s. After the historical flush of tourists and
families that had used to attend the area to take the so-called waters, there
had been a slump, but there was a resurgence in the early 1980s.
At that time it was still fairly quiet, but a number of younger
people, particularly in regional areas and Melbourne, often travelled to
Daylesford to go to the spa.
The first period during which I attended the bathhouse was in
the days when there was an old chimney and an open fireplace. One would sit
around and have cups of tea and take the mineral spring waters while the baths
were filling. It was really quite quaint and had a real sense of character.
During that time I also obviously stayed in the area. In those days you could
have fired something down the main street any night of the week and not hit
anyone. It was very quiet and was a nice, relaxing spot in which to rejuvenate.
Because of the area becoming known to more people, we have seen
a massive development of tourism in it. The original quaint bathhouse was
developed into a new mineral spas retreat in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A new pool was built, along with a whole range of new bath
rooms, massage areas and a float tank area. It was seen to be state of the art
— which it was — all the way through the 1990s. However, it became
increasingly difficult to get a booking, and one would have to wait up to a
month to get an appointment.
It was during that time that we saw the emergence of a strong
tourism industry, not just in terms of the development of motels and hotels but
also in terms of smaller bed and breakfasts and 4-star guest houses. We have
also seen the likes of the Lake House, with its development of a day spa, and
Peppers Springs retreat, which also has its own day spa treatment area. A series
of Japanese retreats have also come into the area.
The development has not just involved accommodation and
restaurants. We have seen a burgeoning number of artists living and working in
the area, galleries and exhibitions, drama performances, cultural activities and a whole range of other events, which have been
embraced in the Daylesford-Hepburn Springs area and have added real colour and
excitement. It has become a place of choice for many people to reside in, and
that is easily understood by visiting there. Now the bathhouse has become a
central drawcard on the tourist map. In the 1980s, as I said, it was arguably
the drawcard because many of the other attractions simply had not yet been
developed. It is correct to say now that the bathhouse is extremely important to
the area, but other businesses, such as spa, massage, remedial and catering,
have also developed. It is almost a case of choose what you would like to spend
your money on and basically Hepburn Springs and Daylesford have it.
We came across this in June last year when members of the
parliamentary Rural and Regional Committee went to Daylesford and held public
hearings in the township.
It became quite obvious that the development of tourism, with
restaurants, accommodation and activities, is multileveled and is used by a
whole range of people. Activities range from affordable family activities right
through to international 5-star activities and accommodation.
The local economy is not totally dependent on the bathhouse.
However, the bathhouse continues to be very important, and I would never
underestimate or devalue its importance to the area. It continues to be
recognised as one of regional Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions, it
supports over 2200 jobs and is worth more than $200 million annually. For the
record, I think it is important to go through the financials involved in this
The project is worth $10.6 million.
Funding of $8.18 million has been provided by the state
government, $1.2 million by the local council, $500 000 by the federal
government, $300 000 by the Victorian Mineral Water Committee, $342 000 by the
Department of Sustainability and Environment, and $50 000 by the Sustainable
Energy Authority. The redevelopment was initiated to increase capacity, as I
have already stated. The bathhouse was under increasing demand and the need for
expansion was apparent to all. The state government took over the project from
the council in 2006, and thereby saved the project.
Increasing the capacity of the bathhouse has also meant
refurbishing the existing heritage building, specifically in the relaxation area
and the therapy and massage rooms. The project includes construction of a new
public mineral water pool and spa building. It also provides for a new access
bridge to the reception area, and state-of-the-art change rooms, wet areas and
In anyone’s estimation it is a significant project and many
people in the area are really excited about it.
Yesterday in the house the Minister for Major Projects also
alluded to the fact that the project is quite complex from design and
construction and engineering perspectives. It is a world-class facility and will
remain so for a very long time. When the community sees that what is being done
is not standard and run of the mill but is actually something special and very
unusual, it will know that this is an asset which will be in its midst for a
long time and will continue to be an icon for a long time.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms TIERNEY — There have been some delays and I will go
through some of them for the benefit of opposition members.
Again, the minister touched on these yesterday, but it is worth
my going through them as well.
Some of the delays are due to the meticulous attention that
needs to be paid to the formwork for the concrete. If the opposition wants more
details on the particulars of the concreting work, I am sure that that can be
provided, as it is in fact available. It is quite shoddy that opposition members
have not availed themselves of that information. Yesterday the minister also
talked about the need for special metal to be used in those areas that come into
contact with the mineral water because of the corrosive aspects of the sulphur
content of the water.
It is also worth pointing out that, in the Hepburn Advocate of
26 March, Mr Nicholson, whose construction firm is involved in building the
project, is reported as saying:
- It’s not a four-walls-and-a-roof-type of project. It’s a world-class
facility that’s going to be here for a very long time.
The article about the project continues:
Mr Nicholson said an accelerated work program during January
and February had resulted in significant progress at the site.
- Contractors have worked overtime and on public holidays to fast-track
It is important to note also that the construction firm
involved in building this project is from the local area. The Nicholson
Construction company has also engaged local workers and local subcontractors to
do the job.
The contracting company, Nicholson
Construction, won a 2006 Master Builders Association of Victoria award for the
$6.5 million reconstruction of the Bellinzona Grange hotel at Hepburn springs.
It is just up the road from the bathhouse. Anyone who has not just gone past but
has had the pleasure of going inside that facility would understand that it is
an absolutely superb, top-class accommodation and conference facility in the
The construction company is proud of the project and quality of
the work. It believes it is a reflection of the construction skills of the local
tradespeople in the area. It has been a learning experience, and I am sure that
will be translated into new projects and facilities coming up in the area on an
ongoing basis. The redevelopment will increase the capacity of the bathhouse,
which has been unable to accommodate increasing demand in recent years. I think
that at the end of the day all will understand that not only will there be an
iconic building but also a range of products will be delivered in a world-class
I believe that will attract increasing visitation not just by
daily tourists but also overnight, including international, tourists.
As far as the impact on tourism in the region in recent times
during the redevelopment, despite the bathhouse being closed, tourism is doing
well in the area. According to the National Visitor Survey, for the six months
to March 2007 the spa country subregion experienced a growth of 3.2 per cent in
domestic daytrips and 10.4 per cent in domestic overnight visitation. More
recent Tourism Victoria figures, from June 2007, show extremely positive results
in the region, with a 24.9 per cent — that is, nearly 25 per cent — increase
in international overnight visitation and a 6.3 per cent increase in Victorian
overnight visitors, compared to those from June 2006, prior to the bathhouse
closure. There was also a 12.4 per cent increase in domestic daytrip visitors
over the same period.
In terms of the delay, in December Major Projects Victoria
advised the local community of the slippage in the schedule and that there would
be a three-month delay. As a person who has been going there from the early
1980s, and a member of the parliamentary Regional and Rural Committee whose
current term of reference is to look at tourism in areas that have been affected
by drought and bushfires et cetera, and with Daylesford and Hepburn Springs in
my electorate, I make sure that whenever I am in the area I go down into the
gully and look at the progress of the construction. Members of the parliamentary
committee were not able to look at it when we were there, because of the
Mr Drum interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — There was torrential rain at the time as I
recall, Mr Drum. I went to the site not last Saturday but the Saturday before,
29 March, to see the progress of the construction from the road.
I made my way down to the Chowder House to see the guys and
then went to a stall in the main street of Daylesford. I was accompanied by Mr
Geoff Howard, the member for Ballarat East in the other place, and Ms Catherine
King, the federal member for Ballarat. We were there for some time. There was
some talk of the bathhouse, but I can assure members that I was not aware of any
negative comments or of people being particularly concerned about the schedule
of the work on the bathhouse.
In fact I have checked again with colleagues overnight, and
they assure me that the comments about the bathhouse were of anticipation rather
than what the opposition is attempting to peddle this morning. I do not believe
any opposition members have actually spent time in the main street of Daylesford
or advertised in the papers that they will be there so that people who have
particular issues about the bathhouse and the scheduling of that project can
come to talk to them. People are really looking forward to the opening.
We will have a spa complex of international standard. For some
time there has been talk within the international community of mineral spa baths
about the development. It is seen as world best practice. They think it will
create a new benchmark for the industry.
The motion moved by the opposition this morning is not a good
use of the time for opposition business. It is a blatant attempt to just stir
the pot and grab a few headlines. Those of us who have a long and ongoing
commitment to the area really ask you to stop this. We do not want the
opposition’s negative slant to have a negative impact on everyone’s excitement.
Mr Dalla-Riva interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — We do not want the opposition’s comments to
have a negative impact on our local tourism industry and we do not want its
negative comments to have an impact on our local construction industry. The
government has produced a document — the opposition is aware of it — called
the Hepburn Mineral Springs Bathhouse Project Update March 2008, which provides
information and photographs of progress to date. I suggest that the opposition
simply looks at it and appreciates the work and skill and stops denigrating
everyone’s best endeavours.
Mr Dalla-Riva — When is it going to be
Ms TIERNEY — I will inform the chamber that the latest
information, given as recently as an hour and a half ago, from the construction
company on site is that everything is on schedule and it is anticipated that
there will be a completion in June.
Again I would like to quote from the article in the Advocate,
which reports Mr Nicholson as saying:
- It’s a shame a lot of the hype has taken the focus away from the uniqueness
of the project.
I urge members to reject the opposition’s motion and support
the government’s amendment.