Dear Beagle Editor, Following the Eurobodalla Shire Council meeting last Tuesday when Councillors voted to accept the co-housed Option 1 Concept Plan for the new Aquatic Centre and Cultural Arts’ Centre at Mackay Park, the Committee and members of PerfEx have produced our own Media Release from the arts’ community perspective, which we would be grateful if you would publish. Following on from our media release below we provide a copy of a letter which we wrote to the Mayor and copied in to all Councillors, the General Manager and Lindsay Usher, prior to this Extraordinary Council meeting. In this letter, we outlined three assurances which we wanted taken into account and which had previously been discussed. Media Release by PerfEx regarding recent events leading to the current situation of the Cultural Arts’ Facility at the Mackay Park Precinct.
Last Tuesday, Councillors accepted the Consultants’ first option to co-house the Aquatic Centre and the Cultural Arts facility together at Mackay Park. Both the timing of Minister Constance’s funding, which has placed everyone under a lot of pressure to make a hasty decision, together with the prior preparation of the slightly cheaper and financially sustainable of Otium Pty Ltd.’s two Options, was always going to appeal.
We are delighted that Council has the opportunity to apply for generous funding with unprecedented support from our local State Member Minister Andrew Constance. In the 11-year life of PerfEx, an opportunity like this has never arisen, and the improbability of it ever coming our way again is high.
However, though PerfEx supports the application by council for funding for a viable Arts centre, we reserve our acceptance of the format or content of the proposed plan as, at present, PerfEx does not see this as the best long-term outcome for the arts’ community’s needs.
PerfEx has long advocated a multi-purpose auditorium to defray costs, whilst balancing the requirements of the users of an acoustically purpose-built space. We have received very strong support from the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber in this regard, as sufficient space for large events and exhibitions can set us apart from anything else currently available in the Shire. We also want to ensure that a large enough space provides for the needs of overflow exhibition space for our visual artists. Currently, in Option 1, the auditorium is smaller than the existing auditorium in the old Bowling Club.
At the community and Sunset Committee meetings of 21st August, Council assured both the Aquatic Centre representatives and the Cultural Arts representatives that they would look at providing a larger footprint.
They also endorsed the wishes of the Sunset Committee to have closer input into the design and inclusions, should funding be approved. Finally, the PerfEx representatives have asked for assurance that nothing would happen to the old Bowling Club building until funding for a viable Performing Arts centre was assured. If this does not occur and the Bowling Club is demolished, we are in a far worse position than we were beforehand.
In July, PerfEx arranged for representatives from the stakeholder groups to review Option 1 who questioned why the old Bowling Club was not being refurbished and rejecting the concept plan, Option 1. Because of the strength of feeling at this meeting, PerfEx engaged professionals to assist us draw up architectural sketches to re-purpose the old bowling club building, making it entirely functional. The Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber and PerfEx co-presented this Option 3 to a Sunset Committee on 9th August.
The great advantage of this plan, was the additional community space, both indoors and out and the inclusion of a large events space as well as space for our youth and was costed at far less than the figure being suggested for the Cultural facility by the Consultants. However, this alternative was rejected in favour of on-selling the old bowling club site to assist in balancing the budget; a great shame for the future as this community land will never become available again.
Having made the best and strongest arguments we could, and submitting further information for the funding application, PerfEx conditionally agreed to Option 1, with a submission for three assurances to be included in last Tuesday’s Extraordinary Council meeting. Those requests are listed below: -
That reasonable flexibility in design is still possible if and when the grant funding is successful (i.e. funding application and associated plans and business case can be reasonably modified over time to achieve funded outcomes);
That the Otium Option One plan should be expanded as much as possible to provide for a larger footprint for the arts/cultural component (particularly to allow for expansion over time to meet increasing population and market demands);
That council will not demolish or make commitments on the existing bowling club building until the grant funding is secured. We believe the potential refurbishment of the existing bowling club building should remain an active option until grant funding and all other options have been finalised.
We continue to hope that we will achieve, with council and community support, an iconic, viable and functional Performing Arts Centre that reflects the Bay’s evident readiness to embrace and promote the Arts, as we have seen in the fantastic response to the Sculpture on Clyde event held over the past 10 days. The Mayor Eurobodalla Shire Council Moruya, NSW We would like to thank Mayor Innes, Deputy Mayor Mayne, and staff for their time presenting to the meeting for Sunset Committee members and associates on 21 August at Hanging Rock. PerfEx members are not convinced the performing arts/cultural component of the Mackay Park development is satisfactory - both in terms of size and usability (specifically as per the Otium Option One plan as currently presented). However, we also understand that the potential state government grant funding is just too good an opportunity for the shire to miss, and so the existing plans and business case will need to form the basis of the grant applications. Whilst the timing of the grant funding is putting unrealistic pressure on all parties involved to accept outcomes and make compromises, we would like some assurances from Council on the following points that were discussed at the Hanging Rock meeting - A. That reasonable flexibility in design is still possible if and when the grant funding is successful (ie. funding application and associated plans and business case can be reasonably modified over time to achieve funded outcomes); B. That the Otium Option One plan should be expanded as much as possible to provide for a larger footprint for the arts/cultural component (particularly to allow for expansion over time to meet increasing population and market demands); C. That council will not demolish or make commitments on the existing bowling club building until the grant funding is secured. We believe the potential refurbishment of the existing bowling club building should remain an active option until grant funding and all other options have been finalised. The Mayor made the very valid point that Council will ask for up to $50M but may get $10M, or nothing. If so we are back to square one, which is why the bowling club refurbishment option should remain active whilst the process continues.We wish the Council and staff the very best in your efforts to secure substantial funding for our shire. Kind regards Jeannie Brewer, President PerfEx on behalf of the Committee and members.