Community facilities Environment and Water | June 25, 2020

Government hands must stay off local trusts: Kealy

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy is deeply concerned that the Andrews Labor Government is looking to force its way into managing a local trust fund.

Natimuk Lake Committee contacted Ms Kealy following correspondence from the government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning regarding money left to the committee by Otto Spehr in the 1950s. The department believes the scope of the allocation of trust proceeds should be broadened to include Parks Victoria, the manager of the lake proper.

Ms Kealy said the committee was rightly outraged that the government would try to wrestle some control of trust money.

“These trust funds were established generations ago by a local family for the local community. It’s absolutely unacceptable that any government body should demand to elbow in as a first step to take over the management of a local community trust fund,” she said.

“It is an insult to the charitable intentions of one of the first German families to settle in Natimuk that the government would try to sideline the committee in overseeing the management of these trust funds. Furthermore, if changes to the trust provisions were to occur, a large portion of the money would be swallowed up in associated legal fees. This is completely wrong.”

Ms Kealy has written to the Premier asking him to intervene in the matter, and to also address the long-running battle the committee has faced with building a new weir at the lake.

The committee started work on the weir in 2016 before the government stopped them. In 2019 Parks resolved to go ahead with construction despite not having the necessary funds to complete the project. Ms Kealy wrote to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change twice about the committee’s concerns and frustrations. The weir remains unfinished.

“I have urged the Premier to ensure that the government works constructively, openly and respectfully with the committee to make sure the weir is completed without any further delay, and to ensure that responsibility for the proceeds of the Otto Spehr Trust is retained by the committee and trust funds used as intended,” Ms Kealy said.

“The committee has worked for 30 years to improve the lake through a range of important projects, and I thank everyone who has persevered with the long and drawn-out process of trying to get the weir completed and do what is in the best interests of the community.

“It’s time the government shows the committee and the Natimuk community the respect they deserve.”

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