The Winton Shire Council is likely breathing a sigh of relief following Wednesday’s announcement of a massive injection of $8 million by the federal government towards the rebuild of the Waltzing Matilda Centre.
The news was delivered by the Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud, who said the money from round three of the National Stronger Regions fund would help rebuild the iconic tourism hub destroyed by fire in June last year.
The fire delivered a tremendous blow to outback history at the time and the nation rallied around the western Queensland council as it vowed to rebuild the structure dedicated to the country’s national song, contributing to various fundraising ventures and rolling up its sleeves to save countless objects and memorabilia that paid homage to Waltzing Matilda.
The council lost no time in engaging architects Cox Rayner to design an ambitious new complex, with a price tag of $20m.
Of that amount, $12m was covered by the insurance payout, and the state government had pledged $1.5m, but without a substantial federal contribution the Winton council was facing the prospect of coming up with the $8m itself.
As reported by the Queensland Country Life in July, Winton mayor Butch Lenton said that if the federal funding application wasn’t approved, council would have serious decisions to make.
“We would have to use council money and source loan funds,” he said at the time.
“We don’t want to modify the design. We feel changes wouldn’t deliver what we need.
"We don’t want to put it off either – there’s no better time to build than now, with interest rates where they are.”
The proposed new structure has been described as having international standing and as being a place for the whole of Australia.
“We are involved in many public buildings,” said Cox Rayner architect Casey Vallance, “and this needs to be applauded. For us, this building is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Their design incorporates the region’s indigenous culture, dinosaurs, opals, the initial stockmen, Qantas, and local war history, and makes use of local material, especially stone.
Mr Littleproud said the funding was a true investment in preserving Australia’s history.
“Now Winton can rebuild and this funding will also provide an economic boost to western Queensland, which has suffered greatly from prolonged drought,” he said. “Some 479 applications were lodged under round three and only the very best were successful so this is a real testament to the Winton community and council for their commitment to this project.”
A full list of successful round three National Stronger Regions Fund projects will be available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s website on Friday, October 7 at www.infrastructure.gov.au
The Winton shire hopes to be able to start reconstruction early next year and to complete the transformation by the end of 2017.