Dilapidated cinema becomes a heritage heartache
By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.com.au
SUNLIGHT pierced the blackness of the Civic Theatre roof and loose batts hung limply from the ceiling as we walked through the white ant-riddled building.
It's easy to see why this building has become a nightmare for long-time owner Keith Upton.
If it was up to him it would be knocked down or sold off. But his hands are tied by bureaucratic red tape because the building remains on the National Heritage Council register.
Mr Upton has been trying to get the building off the heritage register since it screened its final movie in 2001.
He said the building, which was nominated for heritage listing by Gladstone City Council in 1997, has since become a liability not only for him, but also for his children who would inherit it after him.
Since the cinema closed, Mr Upton said he has paid about $52,000 in rates ($13,000 a year for four years) for the cinema site and a neighbouring allotment that he can't use.
Member for Gladstone Liz Cunningham and businessman Rod Stewart joined Keith on an inspection of the dilapidated building yesterday.
Mr Stewart has led a petition by fellow business people in an effort to help Mr Upton.
Many city businesses have volunteered to act as collection points for the petition urging the National Heritage Council to remove the building from the heritage listing register to allow Mr Upton to sell the building or redevelop the site.
When completed, the petition will be presented to Mrs Cunningham to table in state Parliament.
Mr Stewart said Gladstone business people did not think that Mr Upton should be encumbered with a building he could not use through no fault of his own.
Mrs Cunningham said Gladstone City Council 'needs to examine its responsibility seeing it nominated the building'.
She said if the National Trust wanted to preserve the building, it should buy it.