Ambitious plan to redevelop old Gasworks site to be put before Bendigo councillors

One of Bendigo’s industrial jewels could be reborn as a contemporary cultural precinct for the city. 

Bendigo Gasworks, a site which has been left to wither away since it was decommissioned in 1973, is being considered as a future multi-purpose events centre in an ambitious proposal by the City of Greater Bendigo.

Initial plans would see some of the site’s original features – like the gasholders, broiler room and purifiers –restored, and a function centre, cafe, kitchen and educational facility built on the site.

Related: Old Gasworks frozen in time: Video, photos

Opening up the site for public access through a pedestrian and bicycle path will address current problems of illegal access and vandalism, according to a report prepared for councillors, who will vote on the first stage of the proposal on December 13.

The major challenge for the project, according to the report, was the contaminated land.

Contaminates in the soil include petroleum hydrocarbon fractions, benzene, cyanide and metals.

Asbestos has also been observed in previous soil assessments and there is the potential for asbestos to be present in soil at the site, the report stated.

A pollution abatement notice (PAN) has also been issued under the Environment Protection Act 1970, by the Environment Protection Authority, which requires certain actions to be undertaken at the site and ongoing quarterly reporting.

In 2016, the council commissioned an expert – Tonkin Zulaikha Greer – to conduct a study on future uses of the historic site, considered by many a national treasure. 

“While the reuse of this industrial site is particularly challenging, there is an opportunity to pursue a creative solution for the adaptive reuse of the site and integrate it with the surrounding land use,” he said via his report. 

A contamination clean-up plan, which is being funded by the state government department of treasury and finance, is currently underway, and the city is looking to integrate its redevelopment plans within that clean up. 

At next week’s meeting, councillors will vote on whether to endorse the said development plans and support the $45,000 design and cost estimates budget. 

Bendigo Gasworks operated for more than a century from 1860 until 1973 when the Victorian energy industry turned to natural gas piped from Gippsland and coal gas became obsolete.