Hobsons Bay council has moved to prevent the state government’s planned removal of railway heritage groups from the heritage-listed Newport Railway Workshops.
The government recently indicated it wanted the heritage railway groups, who have run Steamrail Victoria and the 707 Operations volunteer groups restoring heritage trains at the workshops for nearly 30 years, moved off the heritage site, Cr Peter Hemphill told last week’s council meeting.
“Those that know me know that I am very passionate about preserving history and heritage,“ he said.
“A few weeks ago, the government released that document, ’Preserving our rail history – a blueprint for the future’, and it has a lot of detail in it but not enough to some degree.
“For the local rail heritage groups, they see it as no future and that’s because it’s made it quite clear … that VicTrack wants to move them off the site.“
Cr Hemphill said the rail heritage groups at the workshops had hundreds of volunteers restoring heritage rolling stock, plus providing engineering services to many other rail heritage groups around the state, along with running steam trains.
“These groups have been working out of the West Block since the mid-1990s, and in the case of Steamrail (Victoria), they’ve been there a decade earlier,“ he said.
“There’s hundreds of volunteers that work out of this site and have been there for 30 years.
“If you do the numbers, you could probably guess that there’s been million hours of volunteer work being spent down there.“
“There have been reports that they want to move them up to country Victoria.
“The groups say that that would be the death knell for them because they’re volunteers and they mainly live in Melbourne and they would have to travel vast distances to carry out their important heritage work.
“It has some of the most significant intact 19th century rail infrastructure of anywhere in the world to the extent that there’s even been thoughts that it should be listed by UNESCO.“
The council resolved to prepare a report based on consultation with the state government and the railway heritage groups to provide councillors with a better understanding of available options that prevent the removal of the railway heritage groups.
It will write to Williamstown MP Melissa Horne requesting a meeting with all parties.