A municipal council has been successful at its second attempt to buy a small town church.
Golden Plains Shire Council was the winning bidder at a public auction for the Smythesdale Catholic church on Saturday.
This same council attracted criticism with an abortive attempt to buy a 156-year-old church at Rokewood a year ago.
The Victorian government refused the council's last minute plea for it to compulsorily acquire it.
But at Saturday's auction the council drew on its own funds to pay $384,000 for St Mary's Catholic Church at Smythesdale,
It had called a confidential meeting last week to set aside $450,000 for the church purchase which sold at the $384,000 price plus stamp duty and legal costs.
Smythesdale is an historic gold rush town of about 800 people on the Glenelg Highway, about 20km south-west of Ballarat.
Council has not said what it would do with the church but in a statement pointed out the church block took in 1357 square metres in the centre of the town's historic precinct.
Council said the church was adjacent to The Well, council's facility which is home to its Customer Hub, maternal and child health service, library outreach service, community rooms, Digital Hub, Smythesdale Pharmacy and the medical office.
Council said the purchase was a strategic move to add to its adjacent land holdings in the town.
Council only made the decision to buy the church at an unscheduled meeting on Friday.
Former Mayor Owen Sharkey said he was one of three councillors who opposed the unbudgeted purchase.
"With the exception of the last church we tried to acquire, this stands as one of the more bizarre processes I have been apart of," Cr Sharkey said on social media.
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St Mary's timber church doesn't have the history attached like the Rokewood bluestone building which ended up being sold privately.
The original church was built in the early 1860s and later moved to the present block but was replaced in the early 1970s by the current weatherboard building moved from Haddon.
Rokewood, about 40km to the south of Smythesdale, is another of the many churches throughout rural Australia which had fallen on lean times through loss of population.
Golden Plains council became involved in a campaign to save the stunning Gothic church after the Uniting Church decided to sell it.
The Uniting Church wanted to make about $500,000 for the sale and support the remaining churches and Ministers in the region.
The local congregation had dwindled to less than five.
St Patricks, the town's Catholic church, was sold a few years ago.
Another St Patrick's, this one at Springdallah, between Rokewood and Smythesdale, was sold at auction in 2018.
Church authorities said more and more congregations are not able to afford to upkeep of their old buildings and "are much more mobile" to access to other church communities.
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