Plans are afoot to resurrect two town halls in the Bega Valley after they were razed to the ground during the Black Summer fires.
The communities at Kiah and Wandelle have been without a public indoor venue since the bushfire of January 2020, but the Bega Valley Shire Council has now engaged three architectural firms to provide concept designs for new town halls.
Stone Three Design, Complete Urban Pty Ltd and Facility Design Group Pty Ltd will draft a design for both halls which will then go on public exhibition from February 2022.
Infrastructure and Services Manager, Gemma Gill said that following public consultation, a design for each hall will be selected before the successful firm moves forward with detailed drawings for authority approvals and construction tender. Rebuilding will then commence late 2022.
“The concept designs from each architect will incorporate feedback from community consultation sessions held in both communities over the past 12 months which gave residents the opportunity to contribute to the overall design brief and specifications for the new community halls,” Ms Gill said.
Funding for three new town halls was announced in November 2020 as part of the NSW and Federal Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (BLERF). Kiah and Wandella Halls will share $1.82 million of the allocated $3 million.
Member for Bega Andrew Constance said at the time that the halls are at the centre of many rural and regional communities and that rebuilding them is a big step towards it feeling like home again.
“In many rural and regional communities, the hall is the centre point of everything that goes on and for some towns and villages, it’s the only significant building. Community halls often accommodate weddings, meetings, birthdays and annual events, making it the beating heart of country towns – symbolising hope and prosperity.”
The new Wandella hall will be located on the site of the original hall and will incorporate the local war memorial, a public toilet block and small BBQ area and covered shelter. A bushfire memorial garden and remembrance walk will be included.
The new Kiah hall will be located on land acquired by the council on behalf of the community, adjacent to the site of the original hall. The Kiah community is making do with a temporary pavilion and barbecue area that was erected near the tennis courts in the middle of the year.
“The discussions with the community emphasised the importance of paying tribute to the past, while also looking towards future needs and resilience,” Ms Gill said.
“The halls have significant historical background and connection for the communities of Kiah, Wandella and surrounds, and we look forward to restoring these centres to once again be a focal point of community life.”
Ms Gill said timing for the start of the two projects had been impacted by the need to prioritise urgent emergency and restoration works across the shire following the fires, a number of which have been delayed by multiple flood events over the past 18 months.
“We have also been very considered about taking the time to ensure we conducted a sensitive and appropriate level of community and stakeholder engagement,” she said.
Construction is scheduled to commence in late 2022, with completion set for June 2023.