Our Place will be a new building in Swan Hill that will be home to our art gallery, visitor services, the Pioneer Settlement entrance and a new cultural experience.
We are working hard to create Our Place as a learning, interpretation and information hub for our region. Our Place will be an iconic, central space for creativity, culture and tourism.
Information about the Our Place project will continue to be updated and made available here.
Floor plans and designs
Frequently asked questions
Our Place came about from our investigations into a planned new interpretive centre.
During these investigations it became clear that co-locating other tourism and cultural services would have benefits far beyond those that could be achieved with a standalone interpretive centre. In fact our work indicated a standalone interpretive centre would not be viable.
Co-locating our services on the currently proposed site will offer a cost saving for Council and the community, and provide an iconic, central space for creativity, culture and tourism.
It would achieve the much-needed art gallery upgrade.
We have been working for many years to advocate and seek funding for a new gallery building. The gallery is renowned for its collection, community engagement and outreach programs. It needs a modern space that befits that work, and that is large enough to store its valuable collection.
It allows us to create a new Pioneer Settlement entry - a goal that Council has had for many years.
The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary, and strategic planning dating back to 2010 suggests that a modern entry be built on Monash Drive.
It allows us to custom-design a modern information centre that caters to tourists in the digital age, like others are doing right around Australia. It is also worth noting that Council leases the current information centre building.
It allows us to tell stories of our Aboriginal culture, and we have and will continue to work with local Aboriginal people as we develop Our Place plans.
Our Place will further activate the riverfront area - a plus for locals and visitors.
Following extensive feasibility assessment of five sites along the river, Council resolved in December 2018 to proceed with the development of the Our Place project inside the Pioneer Settlement, north of the PS Gem, in the area where the locomotive and rose garden are now located.
The feasibility study indicated that this site offered the best economic, social and financial benefit, including improving public access to this prime riverfront location and facilitating co-location of services.
In March 2019, funding was announced. The Our Place development is part of the larger $34.5 million Our Region Our Rivers project, delivering 29 projects across seven Local Government areas in proximity to Swan Hill Rural City Council.
In July 2019, an architect was engaged to develop concept designs for Our Place.
A community information session was hosted on 9 October 2019 to share these plans with the community.
At a Special Council Meeting in February 2020, Council received two petitions related to the development of Our Place.
Council resolved to carry out further community engagement and to investigate an alternative site for Our Place.
Community consultation was undertaken in February and feedback from the consultation was shared with Councillors at the March Ordinary Council Meeting.
During this time two design options were developed - one design for each of the sites being considered.
Community consultation was held in May 2020 to receive feedback and comment about the site options and concept designs.
At a Special Council Meeting on Tuesday 7th July 2020 Council resolved to;
- Adopt site option 1 as the future site for the new “Our Place” building. Site Option 1 is located inside the Pioneer Settlement ‘proper’ and to the North of the Gem, and revisit the amount of space allocated for the Aboriginal Cultural Space.
- Require that the “Our Place” project be built within the budgeted allocated funds of $10,946,040. Unequivocally no overspend.
- Require that the train and the windmill be retained within the Pioneer Settlement grounds and the Pental Island Bridge scoped for repair.
- Require that the community consultation period for the relocation of the train and the windmill be completed within 4–6 weeks and bought back to Council at a Special Meeting of Council in August 2020 or the August 2020 Ordinary meeting.
It is anticipated that site preparation for the the new building and construction will commence in the second half of 2021.
The project team have been working closely with the architect, expert consultants and the key stakeholder user groups to finalise the detailed design of the project. Design drawing of the new building can be found in the gallery of images at the top of this page. It is expected that site preparation and construction will commence in the second half of 2021.
The Federal Government (through its Regional Growth Fund) has committed $16.8 million to Our Region, Our Rivers – a joint infrastructure project of seven local councils to deliver river and lake front projects across the region.
The councils – Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Buloke, Loddon, Balranald, Murray River and Edward River – have all committed to contributing matched funding. This contribution can include grant funding from State Government, and some of our projects do (see below).
Our Place is the major project from the Our Region, Our Rivers suite of projects. All the projects to be delivered under Our Region, Our Rivers in the Swan Hill municipality are:
|Project||Funding sources||Project total|
|Our Place - detailed design and construction, incorporating a new art gallery, Aboriginal cultural experience, visitor services and a new entrance to the Pioneer Settlement.||
|Our Place - carparking and footpaths on Monash Drive||
|Landscaping for Our Place, including a bush tucker garden, plus Yamagata garden||
|Activating the Swan Hill riverfront||
|Robinvale walking trail and community centre art work||
|'Discover More' augmented reality walking trail for Robinvale||
|Robinvale riverfront pop-up cafe||
|Upgrade Bromley Road, Robinvale||
|Boundary Bend walking trail||
|Activate River Towns project - Robinvale, Wemen, Beverford, Nyah, Piangil, including seating, shade and landscaping||
This project will play a significant role in Swan Hill’s (and Australia’s!) economic recovery and the Federal Government, which is contributing half the funding for the project, are actively encouraging us to continue with the project as it supports jobs in our community.
Construction of the new building will commence in the second half of 2021.
The new building is expected to be completed in 2023.
In the past few years we have worked with key stakeholder groups as we have investigated and developed plans for Our Place.
There have been many key project milestones that have been well publicised through Council channels and in local media.
These included Council’s decision on Our Place’s location in December 2018, the funding announcement in March 2019 and the release of concept images in September 2019.
A series of community information and feedback sessions were held in February, and again in May 2020.
The project team will continue to keep the community informed throughout each stage of the project.
If you have a specific question about Our Place or you would like to share feedback at any time, you can submit your question or feedback here.
Council engaged an independent investigation into the suitability of five proposed sites for Our Place. The investigation identified the current proposed location within the Pioneer Settlement as the site that offered the greatest potential.
The five sites investigated were:
- At Horseshoe Bend, within the Pioneer Settlement
- On the existing art gallery site
- In River Plaza – an area identified in the Riverfront Masterplan between the end of McCrae Street and the park’s soundshell
- On the GrainCorp site near Big4 caravan park
- Adjacent to the gallery and linking to Spoons
Sites were discounted for a range of reasons, including ownership of these sites, the cost to demolish or relocate existing buildings and the strategic opportunity that co-locating these services offers to our community.
Co-locating the information centre, gallery and Pioneer Settlement entrance will be a cost saving for Council, and in turn the community.
Co-locating these services at the Pioneer Settlement allows us to create a new Settlement entry - a goal that Council has had for many years.
The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary, and strategic planning dating back to 2010 suggests that a large, modern entry be built on Monash Drive.
We are aware that the Settlement – more than 50 years since opening - operates in a vastly different world and must adapt to continue to attract visitors, remain a competitive attraction in the region and to reduce ratepayers’ annual investment.
A concept design is a high level and very basic design that helps us to understand what the style and layout of a building might look like, before the architect spends too much time on the detail. The concept design will help us understand;
- the basic shape/s of the building
- where the services will be located (i.e. Art Gallery on the upper level; Aboriginal cultural experience and education space on the ground level)
- how the building will sit in the landscape (concept elevations for the two Our Place designs are included for each of the designs
In the current stage of design, the architect is working to firm up the detail, including the exact size of each of the spaces, the final location of each service; and details of the landscaping, including where trees, paths and lighting will be located.
We want the Pioneer Settlement to continue and to thrive into the future. To compete in a competitive tourism market we have to adapt the Settlement to meet modern expectations, and believe that Our Place will help us to continue doing this.
We have already started adapting, with Heartbeat of the Murray laser light show the major improvement in recent years, along with the new Paragon Cafe and an increased focus on functions at the Lower Murray Inn.
For many years there have been plans in place to build a modern, permanent entrance to the Pioneer Settlement. The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary and was built as such.
Our Place will be built on the area between the river and Monash Drive, where the Pioneer Settlement rose garden is now.
Exactly where it will sit in this area is still to be determined, as is the look of the building and the materials it is built from.
Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick is currently working with Council’s project team, key stakeholder user groups and expert consultants to progress the project design. Brandrick were chosen because they are familiar with, and can be sympathetic to, our climate, river environment and heritage values.
The locomotive and windmill that are currently on the site will be relocated within the Pioneer Settlement.
For many years there have been plans in place to build a modern, permanent entrance to the Pioneer Settlement. The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary and was built as such.
Having this new building as part of the Settlement will provide undercover, climate controlled spaces for visitors in summer and winter - something that today's visitors need and expect.
Having a modern building as the Settlement's entrance will make the experience of stepping back in time very clear and defined, and will enhance the visitor experience.
There are many examples of historic tourist attractions moving this way.
At the Pioneer Settlement, the Heartbeat of the Murray laser light show has demonstrated how a modern infrastructure can be incorporated into this historic area. It has proven successful, with night-time visitors increasing from 6,600 to almost 19,000 last year.
Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick has been appointed to progress the concepts and were chosen because they are familiar with, and can be sympathetic to, our climate, river environment and heritage values.
As part of the Federal funding, budget has been allocated to upgrade the parking and road in Monash Drive.
This parking upgrade will proceed, regardless of the site of the building.
Currently, there is capacity for about 45 vehicles to park along the road on Monash Drive. Designs for upgraded parking can be viewed in the gallery of images at the top of this page and include extra sealed car parks, plus dedicated long vehicle parking for buses and cars towing caravans.
Following a health and hazard assessment from an arborist, 20 planted trees along Monash Drive on the western side of the site (north of the PS Gem) will soon be removed for safety reasons.
An arborist’s assessment was carried out at the request of the project’s landscape architect and identified that the trees needed to be removed because they are hazardous and a danger to people.
It’s acknowledged that there will be widespread disappointment among the community to see these established trees go. However the safety of pedestrians and visitors to the Pioneer Settlement and the surrounding precinct is Council’s number one priority and is at the forefront of this decision.
The importance and timeliness of the decision was reinforced in late January 2021, when a large limb fell from one of the trees proposed to be removed. Fortunately there was no damage to people or infrastructure on this occasion.
Carefully considered landscaping will replace the trees being removed, improving the amenity of the precinct for many years to come. The new landscaping will see an entry lawn and garden area with tree plantings that will establish a shaded canopy over time as the trees mature.
Council is also exploring options that will see the timber from the trees re-purposed in some capacity where possible. This may be in the form of furniture or other timber products that can be featured within the Our Place development.
The assessor named on the report remains the owner of this document. While Council paid for the report and physical inspection, the assessor remains the owner. The report remains available to Council, for our information and access only.
The following comments represent typical references about the trees to be removed within the report:
“The trees in question are a product of a very poorly executed planting that is estimated to be over 60 years of age. Initially the selection of the species would have been the product of a not very well designed or planned exercise given the inappropriate species for this type of planting and the spacings between each specimen. (Latest knowledge applications would have been beneficial if available at this time.) None of the trees are locally indigenous. Problems like lack of space for the trees to achieve their typical shape and form, access to available aerial space to grow and develop a healthy canopy in search for available light, space to enable trees to actively build strength in their stems to support an appropriate canopy architecture to enable the previous requirement and a suitable subsurface space to ensure a strong and expansive root profile to ensure the required strength in the root structure to support the tree and to enable the feeding roots to access water and nutrients all without too much competition. At the time of selection of the seedling trees there would not have been the knowledge available re the genetic quality of the seed selected, as a result trees are displaying nasty defects that are a product of bad genetic quality e.g. co-dominant stems at a young stage of development.
Due to the lack of a proper maintenance schedule being applied to the maintenance operations of these trees they have been allowed to attain the dangerous heights, condition and shapes that have occurred, the result that all of the trees need to be removed in total to accommodate the new construction and to ensure the safety of the public."
Due to sensitivities around the occupation and for the privacy of the consultant, Council will not be disclosing the name of the Arborist who undertook this assessment.
Already, there are about 100,000 visitors to the Settlement and Gallery each year.
As we add Our Place to the long list of improvements along the riverfront – like the playground, Yamagata garden and concrete pathways - we expect that tourists will be immediately drawn to this area.
So, we believe it makes sense to have our information centre right there amongst it.
A new co-located building will allow our information services to work with our cultural and tourism services and to introduce modern ways of telling our region’s story and distributing information on our region’s offerings. We will become the first information centre in the Murray region to apply international best practice.
It is also worth noting that Council leases the current information centre, so we anticipate long term savings to the ratepayer by incorporating the information centre into this new building.
Plans for Our Place include increased parking for cars, caravans and buses, making it easier to access than the existing building.
It will be important for visitors and tourists to easily locate Our Place to access visitor services and information. This will require way-finding and signage solutions. These solutions will be developed and implemented as part of the project.
Both the locomotive and the windmill will be relocated on the Pioneer Settlement site.
The locomotive will be relocated to behind the General Store. The large windmill will be relocated to the site of the smaller windmill, near the homestead dam. The smaller windmill will be relocated to near the Vega.
We know the current gallery building was a community effort. It was opened in 1987, the result of a tireless community campaign to raise funds and lobby for government support.
It is a beautiful building and with recent improvements, is ideal for commercial or community use. We don't know what that use will be yet.
The Swan Hill bridge and Our Place will both happen - it is not a case of one or the other.
Funding for Our Place is from the Federal Government for "major transformational projects that support long - term economic growth and create jobs". It is new money that Council worked hard to achieve – we joined with six neighbouring councils in Victoria and New South Wales to attract $16.8 million for riverfront projects. The councils will match the Federal contribution.
While we were applying for this funding, Council continued advocacy for a new Swan Hill bridge. The Federal Government has committed $60 million and Council is working with Murray River Council, RMS and VicRoads to finalise a location for a new bridge. In 2020, the community was invited to provide input with regards to the possible future location of the new bridge.
Council is also working with the Swan Hill Needs a New Hospital community committee to advocate for action on a new Swan Hill hospital.
The Federal Government has committed some funding for a new Swan Hill hospital and the committee will continue campaigning the State Government to complete and release feasibility studies and a business case, and ultimately to fund the new hospital.
Check out our FAQ section above - it has answers to lots of the questions that we have been asked to date and we are continually updating the content.
If you have a question that’s not addressed in our FAQ or the information shared, you can submit your question here.
Ask us a question or have your say
If you have a specific question about Our Place, you can send it to us, and we will respond to via your preferred contact method. You can also have your say about Our Place.