Work is soon to begin on Bega Valley's new evacuation and community centre following the appointment of Leser Build as head contractor.
The Bega-based company said it was "over the moon" to have won the competitive tender for the project, which will provide numerous benefits to the local community.
Project manager David Ledsam, of Ledsam Project Services, was on board as another strong local link to the project, which was developed in the wake of the 2018 Tathra bushfires and 2019/20 Black Summer.
The project involves demolition of several buildings at the Bega Showground and in their place constructing a fully accessible, two-storey community centre with all modern conveniences and a commercial kitchen.
Approvals have already been granted for both the demolition and construction, with security fences installed this week and work to begin on site shortly.
Mr Ledsam said the existing showground pavilion was a heritage-protected building and would remain, but everything to the rear of that, including the toilet block, 'art pavilion', dining area and show office would be removed.
Elements of those buildings - which have been added piecemeal over many decades - will be saved and incorporated into the new building in recognition of their heritage value and the community involvement in their development.
Demolition should be complete prior to Christmas, while the full project was expected to be complete by early 2025.
During construction, access to areas of the showground will be restricted and the use of facilities will be limited.
Mr Ledsam said the Bega Valley Community and Evacuation Centre project was being funded by the Australian and NSW governments under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund.
During the Tathra fires of 2018 and the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, the Bega Showground was the primary evacuation centre, sheltering hundreds of people.
However, it was found to be inadequate and outdated in coping with the number of evacuees and the duration of their stay.
Members of the Bega Showground Land Managers - who have been driving the project - said the new facility would replace outdated buildings and provide a space for meetings, indoor sports and community events, and will have the capacity to function as an evacuation centre should the need arise.
"The key thing to understand about the proposed community centre is that it has been designed to provide the Bega Valley community with a modern, accessible, and safe evacuation centre in a future crisis," a land manager spokesperson said.
"Hopefully, these events will be rare, but we need to stay ready to respond at short notice should one occur.
"In the good times the centre will serve a number of purposes. For over 150 years the major tenant of the showground has been the Bega Show Society. The new facilities will provide modern administration and exhibit facilities for the show.
"Other community groups will continue to access the facilities, like the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Bega Rotary, and Can Assist, and the more modern function rooms may well encourage expanded or new events."
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The land managers said they wanted to thank their partners in Crown Lands and the Bega Valley Shire Council, as well as Mr Ledsam for his "expertise and hard work" in getting the project to this stage.
They also thanked Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain for her advocacy, as well as Bega MP Michael Holland for his considerable and ongoing support of the project.
The competitive tender process was overseen by NSW Public Works and Department of Regional NSW to ensure compliance with NSW government procurement guidelines.
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