National Trust calls for government support as revenue plummets


The National Trust property, Labassa, in Caulfield. Photo: Stephanie Bastiaan

Victoria’s National Trust is facing a financial crisis, putting the organisation at risk following the forced closure of its properties due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, the organisation manages 300 heritage properties across Australia, which draws more than three million visitors annually, making it one of the largest independent tourism organisations in the country.

Each state and territory operate as separate entities.

Victorian director Lachlan Molesworth says the unprecedented year has seen two-thirds of the organisation’s income stream dry up.

“Our revenue is derived primarily from visitors and secondly from functions and events, particularly weddings where estates like Rippon Lea would do three or four a week. Since March, every single property in the country has been closed,” he said.

“Although you can close the gate and stand people down, an estate like Rippon Lea is 15 acres of parkland that still needs to be watered, requires electricity, insurance, security, all those costs remain whether they are open or not.”

The National Trust expects a loss of around $30 million across the country; however, the organisations in some states are in a stronger position due to state government support.

Victoria manages 41 properties, many of which are large estates with extensive parkland. Mr Molesworth said he had approached relevant Victorian state government ministers but was frustrated at the lack of support.

“We perform a public benefit for the state and the country, saving the government from performing that function. All these wonderful parks and homes that are open to the public; these are assets that the government doesn’t have to pay and doesn’t have to manage,” he said.

“The state government has handballed us from one minister to another and, as a consequence, we have had no public support at all.” 

Opposition tourism spokesman David Hodgett said the government would need to take bold steps to restore Victoria’s tourism sector and support the recovery of all its tourism businesses, which is a major contributor to the Victorian economy.

“Where the National Trust sit in all this would need to be assessed, considered and supported as necessary, as part of an overall tourism recovery package. However, given the role the National Trust Properties play in attracting tourists, it is something that the government should consider,” Mr Hodgett said.

Tourism Minister Martin Pakula did not respond to questions.