plaques-decayIrene Williams and Historical Society president Sam Gatto describe the current state of ‘Wonthaggi Heritage Walk’ plaques as ‘shocking’. G091714

By Gav Ross

VISITORS and locals hoping to learn more about Wonthaggi’s rich history have a number of options.
They could visit the State Coal Mine, venture into the Wonthaggi and District Historical Society Museum on a sunny Saturday, or even pop over to the library to peruse a huge number of texts on the subject.
One thing they probably shouldn’t bother with, however, is the embarrassing ‘Wonthaggi Heritage Walk’.
The small collection of plaques scattered up and down McBride Avenue are looking a little worse for wear, with one plaque, located outside the 100-year old Railway Station, missing entirely.
Originally the first step in a project that would eventually see more than 20 plaques erected around Wonthaggi’s CBD, the Heritage Walk initiative started out strong but soon lost momentum when additional grant applications failed.
Wonthaggi and District Historical Society president, Sam Gatto, believes the replacement of the seven plaques, first installed in 2005, should be made a priority.
“They’re shocking,” he said.
“I’m not blaming the council for not doing anything about it because, from what we understand, they don’t have the money to do it.
“But they should either be pulled down or fixed up – not just left as they are.”
Mr Gatto estimates the plaques have been in their current, derelict state for at least two years.
A few, such as the one erected across the road from the original Post Office building (which the library moved out of late last year), are in reasonably good condition.
Others only a short distance away, however, are faded to the point of being completely unreadable.
“It’s not a very good advertisement for the town,” Mr Gatto added.
Last year, Mr Gatto and the Historical Society’s secretary, Irene Williams, had discussions with Bass Coast Shire Council and were tasked with providing updated texts for what they hoped would be the fast-tracked replacement of the plaques.
They handed the revised passages over to the council but haven’t heard anything since.
“Irene and I spent a long time on those texts,” Mr Gatto explained.
“I corrected quite a lot of the historical inaccuracies that were on some of the original (signs).”
As for the missing sign at the Railway Station – which is home to the Historical Society’s museum – well, society members aren’t overly impressed.

“That one isn’t even there and that hurts,” Mr Gatto said.
“But it’s not just the sign at the station’s entrance – we believe the entire platform and the renovation of the museum should be a priority.
“This area has become pretty much the centre of town.
“We appreciate the council’s assistance in other projects and we’re always very happy to work with them, but it’s about time something was done.”

No upgrade any time soon

A Bass Coast Shire Council spokesperson said the council will continue to source funding opportunities and work with the Historical Society to update and complete the Heritage Walk.
The spokesperson confirmed that a grant application to upgrade and erect additional signs for the Heritage Walk had been unsuccessful in the past.
“A further expression of interest for a partnership project with the Historical Society was submitted in 2013 for a ‘Putting Locals First Grant’,” the spokesperson added.
“This was why an update of the information was requested from the society – to provide additional information that had been sourced for the signs.
“The council has not been given the approval to proceed with a full application for the grant funding at this stage.”
The spokesperson continued: “There are some signs which have been vandalised and some removed due to damage to the signs.
“Each sign is around $1500 for the art work, printing and installation – there are around 25 signs.
“Investigations have been made into a different type of sign similar to Mirboo North’s town signs, which are hardier and less prone to damage.”