South Perth MLA John McGrath says he has not given up hope of the Old Mill returning to its former glory as a heritage and tourism icon.
“I would like to see the Old Mill turned into an interactive museum that will become a destination for tourists,” Mr McGrath said. “There is so much history on that site, not just about the mill but also the Swan River and the aboriginal people who hunted and fished there before white settlement.
“The museum could not only re-create the role played by the Old Mill in the early days of the Swan River colony but other aspects of life along the river, including the arrival of Chinese market gardeners in the late 1880s.”
Mr McGrath was speaking after attending the launch of the refurbishment of the Old Mill by Federal Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson, which was pledged by the ALP during the 2007 election campaign.
Mr McGrath said while the Commonwealth funding ($74,500) to repair the wooden sails was greatly appreciated by the City of South Perth and the South Perth Historical Society, it was time to come up with a plan for the Old Mill’s future.
“Visitor numbers have been on the decline for a number of years,” he said. “This is one of the most significant heritage sites in Western Australia and I think we should be doing something to make it a place that will not only attract tourists but also bring back the locals who used to visit.”
Mr McGrath said he had instigated a meeting next month with the City of South Perth Mayor James Best, Chief Executive officer Cliff Frewing and representatives of the Historical Society and Old Mill volunteers.
“I would like to see a steering committee formed to drive the project and see what kind of vision we can come up with for the mill,” he said.
Mr McGrath said initially, he hoped the State Government would fund a feasibility study.
In 2006 a proposal for a development at the Old Mill was rejected when a number of residents expressed concern about the impact it would have on them due to a significant commercial aspect in that plan.
“The challenge now will be to come up with a proposal that will enhance the Old Mill as a tourist attraction while not impacting adversely on surrounding residents,” Mr McGrath said.