City of Greater Bendigo to install new safety features at Rosalind Park and Victoria Hill poppet heads

The City of Greater Bendigo will introduce new safety measures that limit night-time access to two of the city’s iconic poppet heads. 

Acting chief executive officer Vicky Mason said cages would be installed around the foot of staircases at the Rosalind Park and Victoria Hill sites, a bid to keep people off the structure after dark.

“Heritage approval is required for the cages and it is planned to have them in place by June 30,” Ms Mason said.  

Other recent safety measures at the two poppet heads include the installation of signage warning visitors to exercise caution and watch for tripping hazards.

“Lighting upgrades at the base of the Rosalind Park poppet head will also take place prior to June 30 and the City is investigating how it can get power to the base of the Victoria Hill poppet head so lighting can be installed there too,” Ms Mason said. 

The changes are the result of a risk assessment at the two poppet heads, a response to the death of a man in Rosalind Park two years ago.  

His death was one of three fatal incidents at the poppet head between January 1, 2000, and January 30, 2017.

Reporting on the 2016 incident, coroner Audrey Jamieson recommended the city investigate whether safety enhancements, including higher safety barriers on every level, could be made to the tower.

The council did not endorse the coroner’s safety barrier suggestion.  

Current safety measures at Rosalind Park include gates at the ground and first levels, which are locked from dusk until 7.30am.  

But coroner’s investigator Senior Constable Rodney Webster found it was still possible to climb around the gates.

Fencing around the poppet head, while appropriate for people used the tower as a lookout, “[did] not appear to keep someone out who is intent on climbing the tower”, SC Webster told the coroner.  

The only way to make the tower completely safe would be to shut off all public access, the investigator reported, beforing noting that “the poppet head tower is a tourist attraction in the area and it would be unfortunate if this was to occur”. 

An option to remove the poppet head was considered as part of the council’s risk assessment.

“This approach was rejected in favour of improving safety around the poppet head,” Ms Mason said. 

Originally standing atop the Garden Gully United mine, the Rosalind Park poppet head was installed at its current location in 1931.

Cage won’t stop art going ahead

A night-time performance with the Rosalind Park poppet head at its core will carry on unencumbered by new safety measures at the site, the City of Greater Bendigo has said.

ACT Natimuk’s show, Poppet, was one of two $260,000 commissions announced last month as part of the Regional Centre for Culture program taking place across central Victoria in 2018.

It is understood the production will see aerial artists suspended from the Rosalind Park structure, as well as parts of the poppet head encased in fabric onto which digital artwork will be projected. 

The city’s acting chief executive officer, Vicky Mason, said ACT Natimuk had experience producing work on silos and other high structures and they would adhere to “significant and stringent risk management processes”. 

“The City is working with external and internal stakeholders to ensure that the proposed aerial/acrobatic performance meets all onsite safety expectations,” Ms Mason said.