Heritage advocates mourn Waverley

Heritage overlay-listed building Waverley was demolished last week. (Supplied)

Matt Hewson

National Trust members are in mourning after the demolition of historic home Waverley, demolished to make way for Nyaal Banyul, the new Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCEC).

The Trust’s Geelong and Region Branch engaged in three years of consultation during the development of the plans for the centre, advocating for the protection and retention of the building.

According to a statement by the Geelong and Region Branch, local and state governments advised throughout that period Waverley would be “incorporated into the design of the new convention centre because of its significance for the community”.

National Trust Geelong and Region Branch committee member Lex Chalmers said the demolition of the building despite her branch’s continued engagement and advocacy and the support of the Geelong council was disappointing.

“Development proposals above a certain value and size are handled by the Geelong Authority, which is answerable to the state government,” Ms Chalmers said.

“And these big projects are managed through Regional Development Victoria, which isn’t tuned in to heritage to any great degree.

“The council created a development plan overlay that said… specifically, heritage buildings on a corner under a heritage overlay should be retained.

“But the three bidders were given a choice, really, of whether they would retain Waverley or not, and they all chose not to.”

Waverley House was constructed between 1871 and 1874 by prolific Geelong architects Alexander Davidson and George Henderson.

The building was notable as one of the earliest houses in Australia to be built using hollow brick or cavity wall construction.

In 2014 its dilapidated slate roof was replaced with a new Welsh slate roof to match the original construction and character of the building, for which it won a Geelong Heritage Award.

Geelong mayor Trent Sullivan said the City of Greater Geelong recognised the significance of Waverley and had advocated for its retention.

“The Victorian Government, through the Minister for Planning, had the sole responsibility for determining the future of Waverley House,” Mayor Sullivan said.

“We asked the Victorian Government to repurpose Waverley House, and for it to remain within the broader Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre precinct.”