Hepburn Springs Bathhouse lease settled: Delahunty
Planning Minister, Mary Delahunty today announced that Hepburn Spa Group would be assigned the existing lease for the historic Hepburn Springs Bath House.
Ms Delahunty said a full Expression of Interest process would be required to select a lessee for the facility in the longer term.
“This is the best way of protecting the public interest, particularly as the Bracks Government has provided over $5 million to redevelop the bath house,” Ms Delahunty said.
“The public process will ensure the best possible operator for such an important community asset.”
Hepburn Spa Group would be able to participate in that process, she said.
“The lessee of the Bath House, Romny Grange Pty Ltd, was placed in voluntary administration in May 2004 and the administrator began the process of on-selling the existing lease,” Ms Delahunty said.
Hepburn Spa Group was recommended to the Hepburn Shire Council, as the committee of management, by the administrator to be the assignee of the lease and the Council sought government agreement to assign the existing lease (which expires in March 2006) to the Hepburn Spa Group and to grant a further lease term.
The State Government commissioned two reports to help inform the Minister’s decision on the lease.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was engaged to examine the business and financial capacity of Hepburn Spa Group while Phillips Fox examined the probity of Council processes in relation to the assignment of the lease for the Hepburn Spa Bath House.
“An extensive analysis of the Hepburn Spa Group by PricewaterhouseCoopers found the group’s proposed corporate and financial structure to be acceptable,” Ms Delahunty said.
“Legal firm Phillips Fox examined all relevant council files, interviewed councillors, the Council’s CEO, the independent chair of the Council’s audit committee and various local stakeholders.
“The inquiry found there was a great deal of local misunderstanding of the process that was undertaken by Council. This was not an open Expression of Interest process but one of on-selling the existing interest of Romny Grange.
“Phillips Fox also found there were no grounds to suggest that the process the Council followed was corrupt.” she said.
Ms Delahunty said the Hepburn Springs Bath House was an important part of the Hepburn community and was pleased the leasing arrangements had been settled.