THE call has gone out to save Bendigo’s three heritage tourist attractions.
The Bendigo Trust, which runs the city’s famous Talking Trams, the Discovery Centre and the Central Deborah Mine, fear the city’s main tourist attractions may become stale.
It also fears the long-term future of the mine, and the Trust itself, could be in jeopardy because of rising water levels.
The Trust has also revealed the Discovery Centre needs a large maintenance overhaul to stop it closing when the weather is too hot or wet.
In the Trust’s annual report to the Greater Bendigo council this week, chief executive officer Tom Seddon raised the issues as those of “current and emerging challenges”.
He highlighted the “sameness” of the Talking Tram.
“The Tram Tour remains largely as conceived in 1972,” he said.
“This is primarily because the huge costs of additional stops or changes/additions to the route.
“However, tourist attractions which do not evolve cannot help but become stale.”
Mr Seddon also highlighted issues with the stagnation and maintenance of the Discovery Centre.
“Most of the exhibits on Discovery’s main floor date from the opening of the Centre in 1995,” he said.
“While they are maintained, and many exhibits have been built since then, on the whole the exhibit hall requires a substantial renewal.
“Fundraising was expected to be hard and so only $20,000 of an estimated $200,000 requirement is in hand.”
Mr Seddon also revealed the poor state of the Discovery Centre’s roof, and its lack of air conditioning.
“There is no annual allocation for maintenance of Discovery’s building, and attempts to raise philanthropic support have not been successful,” he said.
“Discovery is often forced to close on hot days in summer and on very wet days because of lack of temperature control and building leaks. “
Mr Seddon also questioned the longevity of the Central Deborah Mine attraction, given the abandonment of the working Kangaroo Flat mine and the water problems that resulted.
“The decision by Unity Mining Ltd in December 2011 to abandon the Swan Decline places the continued existence of Central Deborah Gold Mine (and to some degree the Trust as a whole) in acute jeopardy,” he said.
“Funding has been secured sufficient to install pumps and keep the mine open in the short term, however the question of ongoing costs and long term disposal of water (as well as the consequences for the city and downstream water users if this does not occur) in the longer term remain unresolved.”
Greater Bendigo council chief executive officer, and Trust board member, Craig Niemann, said raising the issues were the first step in solving them.
“The issues that have been raised are valid and relevant,” he said.
“This is an area that needs some bigger picture thinking and ideas of how we can both keep the uniqueness of it and reinvest in it.
“There is an opportunity waiting there. It is an opportunity rather than a problem.”
Mr Niemann said the issues were mainly financial.
Bendigo Tramways manager Jos Duivenvoorden said the tram experience would be improved with more stops.
“We would like to get an extra couple of stops, one near the Sacred Heart Cathedral and another near the Golden Dragon Museum,” he said.
“That would allow more people to get on and off and use it as a transport system for places to see.”
Extra stops would require more loops in the tracks, which would cause more disruption on High Street, something VicRoads is believed to be against.
“Stops are also expensive,” Mr Duivenvoorden said.
“The Lake Weeroona stop costs $150,000, so they are not cheap to install.
“Funding is clearly an issue, as is red tape.”
Mr Duivenvoorden said with the city’s plans for growth, trams should be seen as an alternative to buses.
“Do we want to just pump up the number of buses coming through Mitchell Street?” he said.
“Or, is there an alternative? No one is taking the option of a tram seriously, maybe they should have a look at it.”
Mr Duivenvoorden said the narrative in the Talking Trams had recently been updated.
“We can’t change the trams and we can’t change the environment. All we can change are the stories,” he said.