Walhalla 'rotting' in Baw Baw
 Baw Baw News   By // 17:29, Sunday 14 September 2014

Tourism heavyweight says town would be better in Latrobe City

rotting walhalla leaney

CRUMBLING infrastructure and slow maintenance shows the disconnect between Baw Baw’s north east and the rapidly growing commuter corridor, according to Walhalla & Mountain Rivers Tourism Association president Michael Leaney.

Above: One of the beams which supported a key bridge in Walhalla. Supplied.

This article was first published in the 12 September 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy now for even more news and entertainment.


Handrails, park benches, bridges, kerbing and other infrastructure has been slowly degrading over recent years with no repair or replacement, though whose responsibility some infrastructure maintenance is has been disputed by the council.

A bridge to the town’s iconic rotunda took 856 days to replace having been identified as an issue almost a decade ago. Having finally been condemned in April 2012, funding for its replacement came in the 2014/15 Baw Baw Shire budget to give access to the rotunda.

Mr Leaney, who said his views on how the council dealt with Walhalla might not be shared by other members of the tourism association, told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen he thought the council was not keen to maintain town infrastructure because its focus was on key growth areas. He also said investment in Walhalla was more likely to see returns in neighbouring Latrobe City Shire.

“It’s not the only piece of key public infrastructure in Walhalla that is literally rotting into the ground,” he said.


“There is no ongoing replacement, there is no maintenance that goes on up here.

“All the agencies love Walhalla, all have a finger in the pie, until something goes wrong, and then they all argue among themselves over who needs to do something.

“Walhalla attracts 100,000 visitors every year, but this is of little benefit to Baw Baw Shire as nearly all of the benefit flows to Latrobe City.

“Is this the reason for the lack of interest and action [on maintaining infrastructure]? Most likely. Without any economic benefit, there is hardly any incentive to do anything.”

POLL at end of article

But Baw Baw Director of Growth and Economic Development Matthew Cripps said the council was undertaking extensive planning for the Walhalla area and “any suggestion that one policy or project is all council is focused on would be misguided.”

“The recent planning work around settlement strategies and the [Warragul and Drouin] Precinct Structure Plans has been in line with State Planning policy and supporting growth in our largest townships,” he told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

“This is only one piece of work the council is working on.


“Council is undertaking a specific planning project, [C110,] in Walhalla with a focus to simplify development in the township.

“Baw Baw Shire is currently undertaking significant investment and promotion of the region from an economic development perspective which the whole of the municipality will benefit from, including tourist and service [towns] like Walhalla.”

But Mr Leaney said there was no economic reason for Baw Baw to engage in major infrastructure renewal for Walhalla as any return on spending went into Latrobe City rates, not Baw Baw’s, as tourists visiting the region were more likely to go via Moe.

“The only economic benefit the council gets is the rates, all the rest goes to Latrobe City,” he said.

“If you are a rate payer in Drouin and Warragul, why the hell would you want to keep hold of a place that costs you extra money for keeping it that has very little benefit to you?

“Baw Baw is a construct of the Kennett government’s amalgamations in the 1990s. There’s not a lot of logic in it.

“Back in 1918 there was a Shire of Walhalla. It was [later] amalgamated into the shire of Narracan [which] at the time was based in Moe, and it was a logical fit and there was a direct link between this region and Moe, like there is today.

“In 1953, the Queen comes out to Australia… and on her tour she declared Moe a city. So Moe was sliced off, and Narracan was kicked off to Trafalgar.”

Mr Leaney said despite support from the Walhalla region for joining Latrobe City during the amalgamations in early 1990s, the town was placed in Baw Baw when its centre of government was moved to Warragul.

“The problem is it has set up the eastern part of the shire, the Walhalla and Mountain Rivers region to fail, because, the one problem I continually face with the council, is I can never put an economic argument to council as to why they should do anything in Walhalla,” he said.

“Because, for instance, I own the Star Hotel. Guess where my laundry is? Morwell. Guess where my vegetable supplies come from? Traralgon. Everything we do in this region is based in the Latrobe Valley.

“Tomorrow when we go shopping we’re going to Traralgon.

“We have people come up and stay here from Warragul and Drouin etcetera; they don’t even think we’re part of the Baw Baw Shire!

“If you ask people where they do this or that, it’s the Valley. All the links are there and everyone agrees it’s a little bit odd that we’re administered from Baw Baw.”

Mr Leaney said Baw Baw’s focus was on growth areas, not the north east.

“What’s going on in Drouin and Warragul is great. It’s great that there’s growth, it’s becoming very much a peri-urban region, it’s been identified by the state government as being one of the main regional areas to be earmarked for growth,” he said.

“That’s great, and it’s going to have a whole range of [growth] issues. It’s very very important, but they’re issues that affect Drouin and Warragul. What affects Drouin and Warragul is a dramatic world away from what affects us here.

“The issues that affect a small community like [Walhalla district], which only has a population of about 500 people, do you really think that’s top of mind when it comes to the majority of the shire? And the answer is no, it’s not.

“It’s the most stupid situation. I have been a long-term advocate that this region should be a part of Latrobe City. Even if my rates go up, I get some results. At the moment I pay my rates for nothing.”

Baw Baw CEO Helen Anstis told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen the council invested in towns according to needs and priorities.

“Expenditure is allocated based on maintenance, community needs, assets and priorities,” she said.

But for Mr Leaney, fighting the connection that he feels Walhalla has to the Latrobe Valley does not make sense.

“We ran the Walhalla Ljusfest festival last month. Thirty-one days it ran for. How many Baw Baw councillors do you think came? One,” he said.

“Now, Latrobe City? Two, and the CEO. Why? They didn’t come because they were councillors, they came because it was their backyard. They came up to have a look at the lights.”

But the state government has indicated no strong message had been received from the people of Walhalla that the townspeople wanted to join Latrobe City, and changing boundaries is not on Baw Baw’s agenda.

“Baw Baw Shire Council has not had any discussions regarding boundary realignment and will continue to do our best for all of the residents of Baw Baw Shire, including Walhalla,” mayor Murray Cook told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

What do you think?

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12 responses to “Walhalla 'rotting' in Baw Baw”

  1. Jayman Prestidge says:

    Baw Baw Shire are largely reliant on government funding for most restoration work. Like the actions that private business go through every day to save money to stay alive, Baw Baw need to follow suit:- prepare an aggressive budget, recruit passionate local people and change a bureaucratic culture that sees decisions take 856 days. Enough is enough Baw Baw!

  2. Chris Buckingham says:

    Broken record… Moan moan moan moan.
    No vision from Walhalla just more complaints.

  3. wombat lyons says:

    I think no matter what local government area this tourist town is in it will find it hard to get the all infrastructure requests the handful of residents and business owners have.

    I guess I would like to see it move across to Latrobe City council to reflect that many who work, volunteer or own business in the town in fact come from LC. We also know the business of walhalla shop in Moe and traralgon yet its the rates of business in west gippsland that fund the town

    in the end, its a town that makes some business men and women very well off but not sure it offers the community much more than that

  4. Contra to Chris Buckingham’s opinion, Walhalla is the source of the vision…it’s just the bureaucrats aren’t interested and won’t act to do anything to fix even the basic structural problems. As he would know, back in 2006 there was a working group put together to develop a fantastic strategy to take Walhalla [and surrounds] forward which incorporated all agencies involved…sadly at the 11th hour the agencies chickened out and walked away. There’s heaps of vision in Walhalla…just let us do it rather than being blockers! As for Walhalla not offering much [Wonbat Lynons], it just shows how much the residents of Baw Baw Shire value the 100,000 tourists we attracted a year….which is the basic problem I suppose.

  5. Gordon Young says:

    makes sense to give it to Latrobe, come on BBS make the smart economic call!!

  6. Sam Styrene says:

    Chris Buckingham has a compelling argument. Moan moan moan complain moan bitch and moan some more – and then some more – it doesn’t stop. Guess what? Latrobe City residents don’t want their rates going into the bottomless cesspit that Walhalla is. Walhalla should stay with BBSC or better still, secede from BBSC and become self-supporting! Ha! That would be a real hoot. “Citizen” headlines in twelve month’s time: “Walhalla returns to its former glory – A Ghost town”.
    Walhalla keeps sucking money out of BBSC (and several government departments) but returns bugger-all in rate revenue to the BBSC. How much did the dunny block at the northern end of Wally cost? $300k? Yet go there any weekend and there’s no-one camping there or using the facility. Wow what a sound investment by the Baw Baw ratepayers. – or more accurately, their elected Councillors.
    Mr Leaney states:
    ” – sadly at the 11th hour the agencies chickened out and walked away. There’s heaps of vision in Walhalla…”
    Well there’s a good reason “the agencies chickened out”. With a population of around 22 Walhalla is not economically viable. It’s a basket case and has been since the gold ran out. Most people with a modicum of common sense don’t put good money into bad.
    As to “vision”, well at Walhalla it comes by the cart load. There’s no difficulty having vision when you can use OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY. “Dreaming” is perhaps more appropriate for Wally folks not “vision”.
    Mr Leaney comes up with some interesting numbers: 100,000 visitors each year. Really? Wow. Let’s see how the figures stack up. No-one visits Wally during the week (true), they all come on weekends. (If you don’t believe this go up there on a weekday – D.E.A.D. You could shoot a canon ….. etc) 52 weekends a year gives us a tad over 1,900 people each weekend or 950 a day. Really Mr Leaney? What bollocks. (Here’s an opportunity for Mr Leaney to take a shot at this commentary).
    Only one BBSC Councillor came to Ljusfest – which went for a whopping 31 days continuous. Gee, that’s almost a month. Quite frankly, you should be so lucky to have anyone attend this trumped up “festival”.
    If Mr Leaney has made a poor investment in the Star Hotel he should wear it. In the meantime stop begging for public money.
    (Go for it.)

  7. Penny Cabria says:

    From what I have heard the town gets lots of money via grants. Why not use some of it to look after the town as that is why it is given surely? Just my humble opinion but Mr Leaney, is right it does need funding and it infact has funding from what I understand.

  8. wilful says:

    I’m a baw baw ratepayer, and I don’t rally care either way which municipality Walhalla is in, but it does seem a bloody long way away from Warragul and Drouin, much closer to the Valley. Latrobe City has too much money and zero tourist attractions, Walhalla would be better off with them.

  9. Sam Styrene says:

    Mr Leaney continues the blame game. It’s everyone else’s fault: the State government, the BBSC, Mr Kennett, the Queen (now that’s a queer person to blame), the growth of peri-urban regions (sounds a bit peri-anal if you ask me), and …..blah, blah, blah ……. so on it goes. Not my fault – it’s everybody else’s!
    Mr Leaney says: “a small community like [Walhalla district], which only has a population of about 500 people”.
    OMG, is it the mountain air or the arsenic in Coopers Creek? FACT: Walhalla has less than 30 residents. Not 100, not 500 but less than 30. In 2011, the LV Express featured an article (11 August 2011, p7) about the Walhalla Ljustfest and quoted Mr Leaney as saying “there are only about 10 of us who live here, so we needed something simple and cost effective”. ONLY TEN.
    Reported in the Gazette (7 December 2010 at p 14) the BBSC paid out $7,500 to subsidise Walhalla’s 2011 and 2012 Ljustfest – a trumped up festival of lights (that’s where the Star Hotel turns on its porch lights for a few hours each night) with absolutely no connection whatsoever to anything even remotely connected to the place or name, Walhalla.
    And what did the BBSC get for its money? Nothing. Naught. Zip. Zilch. What did Walhalla get? About 35 people on the Saturday night, but if you take away the Polly, the media, and close friends, the figure is close to zero. Oh sorry, they did manage to get an imitation New York style pretzel cart built for the occasion. What to do with it? No idea. But it’s mine now.
    BBSC should dump Walhalla and the LCC should not absorb Walhalla. Let Walhalla fade into oblivion – it’s almost there anyway.

  10. Greg Allen-Pretty says:

    Am thinking that this discussion would be better served by contributors sticking to the facts and not engaging in personal rants under fake names!

  11. Sam Styrene says:

    Clearly some people don’t like documented facts and so they don’t (can’t) respond. Caught out once again by the truth. What a bugga eh? LOL

  12. wombat lyons says:

    Greg Allen-Pretty its an online conversation – fake names are part of the game.
    maybe if Walhalla’s leaders are truly keen to explore council boundary changes they could invite the minister for local government down for a public forum with the CEOs and mayors of both LGAs and start a more formal conversation