Often the centre of community life, local halls provide a gathering place, a celebration space and a point of contact – particularly in rural towns.
For the Rapville community, who lost their hall in last summer’s fires, the Richmond Valley Council has unveiled new plans for the rebuilding the facility in what they feel is a major milestone for the recovery effort.
General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the construction of a new hall was one of Council’s key priorities in the wake of the devastating bushfire, which tore through Rappville and its surrounds on the night of Tuesday October 8, destroying the original hall and 10 homes, as well as damaging several others.
‘In developing the plans for the new hall, now called the Rappville Common, Council had been incredibly fortunate to work with BizRebuild, a bushfire-recovery initiative of the Business Council of Australia.
‘Combining insurance funds with $500,000 from the Australian Government’s $1.4 million grant for bushfire recovery projects in the Richmond Valley would see a much-improved space for the community to use.
Mr Macdonald said that having the plans now on public exhibition is fantastic step forward for the recovery of Rappville. ‘We look forward to hearing the community’s feedback.’
Designed by award-winning Sydney architect Virginia Kerridge, with landscape architecture by Jane Irwin, the new plans include a generous sized hall and outdoor deck, a separate building housing a communal kitchen and supper room, along with a covered outdoor dining area, as well as storage and amenities areas.
Reinvigorating the heart of Rappville
Ms Kerridge said the design aimed to help reinvigorate the heart of Rappville.
‘The new buildings will not only provide a new community hall, kitchen and entertainment facilities, but also offer in-between spaces which provided amenity, as well as garden spaces everyone could enjoy,’ she said.
‘We also wanted to appropriately landscape the Aboriginal land which exists as part of the site, and provide a memorable street address from both Murray and Lyons streets, with buildings that fit into the local context.
‘Another important element of the plans is the intention to use timber from local mills in the construction.’
Richmond Valley Council hosted an unveiling of the proposed plans on Saturday afternoon in Rappville, with community members invited to comment.
Mr Macdonald said as part of the project, Council was also finalising the purchase of Rappville’s St John’s Anglican Church and surrounding land from the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, which is adjacent to the proposed site for the new hall.
‘In a plan that has the strong support of the Grafton Diocese, Council will retain the church while using some of the surrounding land for the proposed Rappville Common.’
Other projects in the pipeline for Rappville
Mr Macdonald said there are several other projects in the pipeline for Rappville, thanks to the $1.4 million grant from the Australian Government’s National Bush Fire Recovery Agency.
‘These comprise a new 800m shared pathway in Rappville, providing pedestrian-cycle access from the school to the post office, upgrades to Rappville Sportsground to replace burnt infrastructure and improve its facilities, and the development of a master plan aimed at expanding the scale of the village.’
Richmond Valley Mayor Robert Mustow said he was looking forward to hearing the community’s feedback on the plans.
Cr Mustow said with the anniversary of last year’s bushfire’s approaching, it was still a challenging time for all of those in the community and their loved ones impacted by the disaster.
‘I hope that moving ahead with the plans for the construction of the new Rappville Hall will make a significant contribution to the recovery process, and help set up Rappville for a positive future,’ he said.
The plans are available at the On Exhibition section of Council’s website, and community members are invited to comment.