THE proposal by the Leongatha RSL to exchange its clubrooms site in Smith Street for shire-owned land on the other side of the road is the opportunity of a lifetime.
That’s the view of the council after it voted unanimously last week to commence investigations with the Returned Services League of Australia into the land swap.
“This is a fantastic project. I believe it opens up a huge amount of opportunities and it’s a good idea to do the land swap,” said Cr Maxine Kiel at last week’s council meeting.
“Fantastic is the word. It could lead to the revitalisation of Leongatha. It’s an excellent initiative of the RSL and could result in an additional $5000 to $10,000 a day being spent in Leongatha if the hotel goes ahead. It could also save the council $2 million to $3 million and result in a major net benefit for the community,” he said.
But Cr Allyson Skinner wanted to see the intent of the motion before the council to be spelt out.
“This motion is not approving the whole project. This is to investigate the logistics and the benefits. Potentially it could be fantastic but at this stage we are just entering into an initial investigation.”
“Yes, it’s just a heads of agreement but as soon as I heard about it, I thought this has got the library written all over it and the community hub. It’s in the right location and could be great for Leongatha,” said Cr Hill.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity if not more,” said Cr Aaron Brown, noting it was exciting to hear the concept plans laid out by the RSL at a briefing session.
“There’s nothing like the accommodation and conference centre they are proposing in South Gippsland,” he said.
Cr Lorraine Brunt agreed it could be the opportunity of a lifetime, for the shire, the RSL and for Leongatha as a whole. “We are saying we will definitely look at what you bring forward,” she said.
The Mayor, Cr Ray Argento, welcomed the proposal as exciting.
He said representatives of the Returned and Services League of Australia (Victorian Branch) Inc and the Leongatha RSL recently briefed Councillors and Council’s Executive team to discuss their priorities for a new multi-level RSL building complex in Leongatha, highlighting the inadequacies of the current facilities to cater for future growth.
“The RSL wants to enter into the land exchange in order to develop a new multi-level dining and accommodation complex which will address some concerns of the organisation regarding its long-term viability and provide its membership with new and improved facilities,” Cr Argento explained.

Pokies concerns
However, after all the encouraging words at the council meeting, local political commentator, Wilma Western, injected a sober note during question time.
She asked the council to consider what its response would be if the RSL expansion project resulted in an application for more poker machines, alleging that some local people, particularly the elderly, had run into difficulty playing the machines.
“I would not like to see it increase the number of machines but I bet they will,” she said.
At other times during last week’s meeting, the potential presented by the shire taking over the existing Leongatha RSL Club was discussed, with councillors noting that the shire stood to save millions by not having to build either a new library or civic centre.
At the meeting, the council also officially shelved plans to build a new $24m/$32m new shire office complex.