Cr Chapman declares hunger strike to keep Fortuna in public hands

A WOMAN who has worked on plans to save Fortuna Villa for 16 years says Elise Chapman’s hunger strike may be a setback for the cause.

Cr Chapman declared she had stopped eating on Monday afternoon as it was the only way to could get people to "wake up" about Fortuna.

But Villa Fortuna Action Group president Merle Hall, who has been involved in a number of plans for the historic site since 1997, said Cr Chapman’s actions could be detrimental.

“It’s possible that it might set the movement back, and the negotiations,” she said.

“This kind of move isn’t something that can achieve things.

“Unfortunately this sort of action is seen as a sort of threat and it’s not usually successful with government decisions.

“We don’t feel it’s a productive move.”

Ms Hall said people were already trying to negotiate with Premier Denis Napthine over a plan by former mayor Daryl McClure to keep the property in public ownership. 

Group secretary Terry Davidson said he was concerned what second and third owners might do with the land if it was bought and resold. 

Mr Davidson said he supported Mr McClure's plan and hoped next Friday's auction would be put on hold.

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Councillor's food strike ‘extreme’: Bendigo Mayor

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Hunger strike threat a worry for Bendigo council 

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Ms Chapman, the Lockwood Ward councillor, said a hunger strike was all she could think of to get Fortuna the attention it deserved.

“Fortuna will be auctioned in 10 days,” she said. “This is history that’s in Bendigo.

“Our significant amount of history in Fortuna doesn’t compare to anything else in Bendigo. 

“Short of strapping a bomb to myself or tying myself to the gates, I don’t know what else to do to get the attention to Fortuna that it really needs to stop this auction.

“It’s horrible to think that Bendigo could lose something so important.”

The Department of Defence, owners of the lavish property, recently set an auction date of April 12, disappointing many in the community.

In early March, former Bendigo mayor Daryl McClure and Goldmines Hotel owner Rick Walduck presented a proposal to the City of Greater Bendigo for a new residential development at the site of the 60-room mansion.

Councillors last week gave support to the plan endorsing a motion to provide in-principle support for the creation of a Fortuna Commission to manage the building and up to $4 million funding over 10 years.

Speaking with the Bendigo Advertiser about the hunger strike yesterday, Cr Chapman admitted she was already thin and had recently been on steroids to gain weight.

Cr Chapman said she suffered from a rare blood disorder and the hunger strike was not something she wanted to do but felt her hand had been forced by lack of inaction by the state and federal governments.

“I’m taking this seriously,” she said.

“I’m doing it because I couldn’t think of any other way to get the federal and state government to listen.”

Cr Chapman said she had never been on a hunger strike before but was determined to stay strong and follow through with the personal protest.

“I don’t really suffer from hunger pains,” she said.

“I eat to live and don’t live to eat so I can go a few days.

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“I’ll be having cups of tea and stuff and if my doctor says I can’t continue then I’ll stop.”

City of Greater Bendigo representatives were scheduled to discuss plans to save Fortuna Villa during a meeting with Premier Denis Napthine last week.

But the appointment was cancelled when Dr Napthine instead visited the Rokewood Incident Control Centre and toured parts of Dereel, which was affected by recent fires.

Council is seeking another appointment with the Premier.

Cr Chapman said she made 19 phone calls to the state government over the weekend and had been poorly treated by someone on the other end of the phone.

Cr Chapman said she’d become fed up and the government representative had complained to the City of Greater Bendigo that she’d hung up on them.

“If that’s what it takes to get someone to listen then I’ll do it,” she said.

“This is a state problem, a federal problem and local problem that involves all three levels of government ... People don’t realise what we’re going to lose.

“We need to get the right people having the right conversation.”

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