FIFTY people gathered in front of the Town Hall last night and sang “Let’s save the Civic Hall” to the tune of Waltzing Matilda.
By the time the Ballarat City Council meeting kicked off at 7pm, the crowd had already filled the gallery and spilled into a second room behind the main chamber.
Some came prepared with signs reading “Wrecking Ball Burt”, “No to demolition” and “Bulldoze the council”.
Ballarat’s media outlets were also out in force, with extra chairs brought in to accommodate the journalists who crowded around the press table.
“This truly is an example of democracy,” mayor John Burt said as he welcomed the crowd.
Public question time was a noisy event.
With 50 submissions due to be heard, Cr Burt urged the gallery not to applaud every question as it would waste a lot of time.
His advice was not heeded, as the council voted in favour of extending public question time past the initial 30 minutes.
The council watcher Gary Fitzgerald asked if councillors had formed an opinion to vote in favour of demolition before listening to public submissions, and was met with applause from the gallery.
Later, the council was asked if a building could be demolished without a plan for development.
The council’s statutory planning director Hamish Lampp said it could, but the crowd shouted “wrong”.
“Burt the wrecker,” one woman cried out when the mayor responded to a question about the merits of giving the hall a facelift.
Introducing the agenda item on the Civic Hall, Cr Burt said he understood the emotion in the chamber and that he remembered when it was built.
“The passion, the emotion ... the responsibility we now have is crucial,” he said.
“What drives me is our forefathers provided us with something that was utilised, useful and we had a heck of a lot of fun in as well.”
But there were angry shouts from crowd when he said times had moved on.