Daylesford residents fear losing the Rex cinema forever after a failed rebuilding of the town hall

The case is now being investigated by the Local Government Inspectorate after the case was reported by the council itself to the independent broad-based anti-corruption commission.

Hepburn Shire councilors will next week vote on whether to sell The Rex and an adjoining house after the city council recommended putting it on the market.

Cleaned: Inside Rex on Vincent Street.

Cleaned: Inside Rex on Vincent Street.Credit:Jason Syd

Daylesford Community Theater president Gina Lyons said the local cinema had supported itself financially and that there had been a large turnout from both locals and tourists, especially during the school holidays.

‘It was run 100 per cent by volunteers. We kept our prices down, she says. “It was a place where people could meet, people of all ages. There is nothing like it. “

The Hepburn Shire Council’s redevelopment stopped in 2018 after cost overruns plagued the redevelopment, and last November, the council voted to abandon the project, called the Hepburn Hub at The Rex.

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The former CEO of Hepburn Shire and almost all council members involved in the decision to buy and upgrade The Rex have since left the council.

Under subsequent leadership, the council commissioned a review of the project and self-reported the matter to the independent broad-based anti-corruption commission, which then referred the matter to local government oversight.

Chief Inspector Michael Stefanovic said the inspectorate was finalizing its report to the Hepburn Shire Council.

“We will not comment further at this time,” he said.

But Hepburn Shires Mayor Tim Drylie said the council and current officials had cooperated with all authorities and investigations into The Rex.

Artwork inside The Rex.

Artwork inside The Rex. Credit:Jason Syd

“This project was optimistically ambitious and would have benefited from more detailed planning, scoping and costing at the forefront of the project,” he said.

The only remaining councilor in the 2016 Hepburn Shire, Don Henderson, said he was opposed to buying The Rex at the time, but insisted he and the current council should still take responsibility for the decision.

“The people of Shire all knew I was against buying it,” he said.

Henderson said the council at the time was told that a conversion could be carried out for less than $ 1 million.

A community hearing about the building showed that the majority of 369 respondents (66 percent) are against the upcoming sale.

Rex is one of the largest buildings on Vincent Street, Daylesford’s main street. It opened in 1929 and was designed by architectural firms Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson, who were involved in creating other iconic buildings, including The Forum in Melbourne.

It served as a cinema until 1963 and was later renovated to include shops and a café.

In 2013, Daylesford residents campaigned and raised their own funds to re-establish a cinema in part of The Rex building. They ran it as a community project, staffed by volunteers, until the rebuilding work began.

Local architect David Moore said the interior of the building, which is covered by a heritage, like the exterior, should be accessible to the community.

“It has to be a kind of common room as well as a cinema,” he said.

Drylie said the council recognized the value of the community cinema and was committed to securing a new home for it.

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