Roebourne historic precinct talks move forward

Alicia PereraPilbara News
The rear block of Roebourne Old Gaol.
Camera IconThe rear block of Roebourne Old Gaol. Credit: Pilbara News

Buildings in Roebourne’s heritage-listed justice precinct could be transferred to local government management in a bid to activate history-based tourism in the oldest town in the North West.

At a meeting last week the City of Karratha council voted in favour of requesting management responsibility and the freehold title over most of the buildings in the Roebourne Heritage Precinct from the State Government after completing a feasibility study into the area and likely costs of restoration.

The precinct’s buildings have been under State Government ownership for years and are seldom used, but the study recommends that they be used for purposes as diverse as a museum, bed and breakfast accommodation, and art and learning studios.

It comes alongside ambitious plans to develop Cossack into a historic tourism destination under a management and promotion contract between the City and Roebourne-based Aboriginal organisation the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the intention was not only to rehabilitate buildings in the Roebourne Heritage Precinct but to use them for tourists and the community.

“The buildings included in the Roebourne Heritage Feasibility Study are a fundamental part of Roebourne and major economic assets in terms of their capacity for tenancy and tourism opportunities,” he said.

“The buildings are owned and managed by State agencies but should council take this over, we could focus on restoration and attraction of long-term tenants.”

Cr Long said the City’s plans for the heritage area would have “strong synergies” with works being undertaken in Cossack.

The Roebourne District Tourist Association, which has a long-term unofficial lease over the Old Gaol and formerly ran the Roebourne Visitor Centre, is also preparing to explore how the same precinct could best be preserved and developed as a heritage tourism site.

RDTA chairwoman Eileen Wright said the group welcomed the City’s feasibility study and was enthusiastic about recent moves to develop the precinct.

“We are really happy about this and are hoping to work with the City in whatever way we can to the mutual end of creating a sustainable tourism industry focused on heritage history in Roebourne,” she said.

“Our key aim is to make it a sustainable heritage attraction that is drawing visitors to this area.”

“This is Roebourne, the oldest town in the North West, but the heritage potential isn’t utilised at all and it should be because it’s very rich.”

Most of the Roebourne Heritage Precinct buildings stand on land owned by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, though several are owned by the Department of Justice.

Speaking at the council meeting, City chief executive Chris Adams said they were serious about pursing historic tourism opportunities in Roebourne.

“This isn’t about getting another consultant’s report, it’s about getting an answer,” he said.

The City will discuss plans for the area at a meeting with the Heritage Council in October.

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