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Our Place – Swan Hill’s iconic new building

Our Place – Swan Hill’s iconic new building

Our Place will be a new building to house the art gallery, information centre, the Pioneer Settlement entrance and a new Aboriginal cultural experience.

The current proposal is for it to be built at the Pioneer Settlement on Monash Drive. Under the current proposal, Our Place would include:

  • Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery
  • Swan Hill Region Information Centre
  • Pioneer Settlement entry
  • A new Aboriginal experience
  • Dedicated workshop and meeting spaces
  • A bush tucker garden
  • New, landscaped public spaces around the PS Gem and near the river

On 11 February, Councillors resolved to investigate an alternative site for Our Place – in the area currently occupied by the gallery, Spoons and the associated carpark.

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 large, 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.

It will also open up spaces to the general public around the PS Gem that are currently only available to Pioneer Settlement visitors.

At the Special Council Meeting on 11 February, Councillors resolved to:

  • Receive two petitions from the community about Our Place.
  • Carry out additional community engagement.
  • Investigate the feasibility of locating Our Place outside the Pioneer Settlement, on the land currently occupied by Spoons Restaurant, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery and the associated carparking area.
  • Request the CEO prepare for the March Ordinary Council Meeting a report on the petitions’ requests, the outcomes of the engagement program and the investigation into the feasibility of an alternative site.
A series of community information and feedback sessions has now been held.

You can still ask a question or have your say.

Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick has also been appointed to develop detailed designs. They will also be involved as we investigate the alternative site.

Stay tuned for details on more community consultation as the design process continues - there will be engagement with direct stakeholders and with the wider community.

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.
  • Regional Growth Fund - $5,473,020
  • Grant funding from Regional Development Victoria - $293,480
  • Council - $5,179,540
  • $10,946,040
Our Place - carparking and footpaths on Monash Drive
  • Regional Growth Fund - $1,125,000
  • Council - $1,125,000
  • $2,250,000
Landscaping for Our Place, including a bush tucker garden, plus Yamagata garden
  • Regional Growth Fund - $110,000
  • Council - $110,000
  • $220,000
Activating the Swan Hill riverfront
  • Regional Growth Fund - $250,000
  • Council - $250,000
  • $500,000
Robinvale walking trail and community centre art work
  • Regional Growth Fund - $21,500
  • Council - $21,500
  • $43,000
'Discover More' augmented reality walking trail for Robinvale
  • Regional Growth Fund - $5,000
  • Council - $5,000
  • $10,000
Robinvale riverfront pop-up cafe
  • Regional Growth Fund - $12,500
  • Council - $12,500
  • $25,000
Upgrade Bromley Road, Robinvale
  • Regional Growth Fund - $690,000
  • Grant funding from TAC - $70,000
  • Council - $620,000
  • $1,380,000
Boundary Bend walking trail
  • Regional Growth Fund - $13,000
  • Council - $13,000
  • $26,000
Activate River Towns project - Robinvale, Wemen, Beverford, Nyah, Piangil, including seating, shade and landscaping
  • Regional Growth Fund - $65,000
  • Council - $65,000
  • $130,000

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.

The arrival of two petitions about Our Place is a clear indication that the community has a desire for further engagement, and that is what we are planning to do.

We will also undertake further consultation on a range of decisions associated with Our Place, including the steam train’s new location, the final design of the building, and the building’s name.

If you have a specific question about Our Place or you would like to have your say, you can send it to us.

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

The other 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.

No.

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.

The current proposal is to build Our Place 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 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.

This location would require the train to be moved. We will ask the community for their thoughts on where it should go.

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.

The building concept plans for Our Place that were previously advertised are just that – concepts. They will change and future design development will consider feedback that we continue to receive.

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.

Currently, there is capacity for about 45 vehicles to park along the road on Monash Drive.

A concept for upgraded parking is being designed and will include about 35 extra sealed angle car parks on Monash Drive along the railway line, plus dedicated long vehicle parking for buses and cars towing caravans, a pedestrian crossing across Monash Drive and wide footpaths on both sides of Monash Drive.

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.

The centre will still sell tickets for all Town Hall and other events and shows as it does now, as well as tickets for the Settlement and Heartbeat of the Murray.

This will depend on the outcomes of our investigation and community consultation.

But 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.

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.

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.