WARRNAMBOOL’S landmark silver ball has become an election issue with city council candidates urged to join a call to restore the 45-year-old structure.
The Warrnambool Planning and Heritage Group wants the council and Heritage Victoria to pay for an assessment of the Fletcher Jones water tower so the necessary repair work and costs can be determined.
All 12 candidates at this month’s poll are being urged to support the group’s push to ensure the ball, which is on the state heritage register, is maintained for the future.
President Julie Eagles said the group was worried the former clothing factory, water tower and gardens, which are now in private hands, were increasingly falling into disrepair.
In a letter to candidates, Ms Eagles said the silver ball was in urgent need of a structural assessment so a maintenance plan and budget could be approved in a process involving the property’s owner, Heritage Victoria and the city council.
“It is clear from our research that state heritage legislation and Heritage Victoria’s role do not work to prevent state heritage places or objects from falling into disrepair and so, unless we take action at a local level, our silver ball will continue to rust, look rundown and perhaps become unsafe,” Ms Eagles said.
“We are keen to ensure that the silver ball is structurally safe and viable for a long time yet on our skyline.
“We want it to look good as well — that is, to see that it’s properly maintained and painted so that it sits proudly on our horizon to let locals and visitors know they are in Warrnambool. It is a unique and much loved landmark — our largest piece of public art.”
In its letter, the group outlined the nine-year saga around the push to protect a historical cottage at 94 Merri Street, which was finally demolished last year.
Its research highlighted limitations in state heritage legislation and the role of Heritage Victoria, as well as what it called “a puzzling disjunction” between local and state heritage roles and responsibilities.
Following its research, the group developed 15 recommendations which are now being considered by Heritage Victoria and the city council’s growth department. Ms Eagles yesterday told The Standard there was a very quick and positive response from most of the candidates since she sent out the letter last Friday.
“The Fletcher Jones site is a complex site to work with and we are calling for the site to be reassessed to make it easier to work with and be redeveloped.”
She said many candidates realised the ball was the most urgent focus for preservation because of its iconic nature and the risk of it becoming unsafe.
“We need to decide whether the council helps to contribute or whether we, as a community, can make a contribution. There needs to be some sort of incentive for the owner.”