Town hall comes alive
A Town Hall in Tasmania’s Huon Valley has been revitalised as a tourism hub that promotes one of the region’s strengths – delicious food.
In 2015, Huon Valley Council, Australia’s southernmost municipal area, was facing a dilemma.
Forestry Tasmania had decided to stop using the old Geeveston Town Hall as its information centre.
They had been a long-term tenant and decided to withdraw from tourism after they realigned their priorities to focus predominantly on forest production.
Council owns the building, which was built in 1914 and has a rich history.
With the departure of Forestry from the Town Hall building and the loss of forestry operations in the area, Geeveston faced the prospect of a ripple effect on its local businesses.
Huon Valley Council Projects Officer Sue Brezinscak was asked to manage the transition project.
“In order to realise its potential, we sought feedback via a number of community workshops and discussions to identify possible sustainable uses,” Mrs Brezinscak explained.
“The community’s vision and objectives for the Geeveston Town Hall proposed that the building be set up for the primary purposes of tourism with services to promote the region, with high quality food and beverages, whilst supporting a rich mix of community events, arts and cultural experiences.”
In late 2015, Council established a company to manage and operate the Geeveston Town Hall, and developed a Business Plan for the building.
“The Geeveston Town Hall Co Ltd (GTHCo) was established, and operates a not-for-profit business, the Geeveston Visitor Centre, from the Town Hall,” said Mrs Brezinscak.
“The building is listed by Heritage Tasmania. The Board of the company is made up of Council representatives and volunteer business owners from the local area. “Their focus is to see the Town Hall succeed and benefit the community.”
Key among the Board’s objectives is to manage the Geeveston Town Hall as a community asset and to promote the inherent value of the building as a key economic driver to the local region.
To achieve this, as well as operating the Geeveston Visitor Centre, monthly ‘Twilight Feasts’ are held to encourage visitors and locals to sample the fantastic range of products available in the Huon Valley.
Huon Valley Council Commissioner, Adriana Taylor, said the Twilight Feasts are incredibly well patronised.
“The Twilight Feasts are generated by local businesses and community groups and have grown into an event where visitors and locals meet, socialise and enjoy some wonderful local produce.
“Community groups are eager to be involved with some of the funds raised assisting those in short-term need in the community.
“The Town Hall has acted as a catalyst for growth and expansion for local businesses and attractions in the area.
“Since the formation of the GTHCo, vibrancy in the town has increased to the extent that there are no longer any vacant shop fronts in the main street in Geeveston, an indication that the economy is performing well in the town.”
The town is also notable as being one of the locations used in the ABC television series Rosehaven, the Commissioner added.
“The Geeveston Town Hall project is a great example of a small community and small council working together to open a community space that in turn has revitalised the community for the benefit of all.”