Tarot, a crystal ball or a party room nod ?
Let's get this out in the open. On February 20th 2018 the Eurobodalla Council put in a grant application for $8 million dollars to the Regional Cultural Fund for the Mackay Park theatre. Round One closed on 3 April 2018. The Council grant application advised: "This project is related to the adjoining Aquatic centre as they share front of house foyer facilities.The Cultural Centre and Aquatic facility form part of the greater Mackay Park Leisure and Entertainment Precinct."
The grant for the proposed 350 seat theatre included a business plan for the theatre that clearly showed that, even with the forecast 12 performance per year running nine nights each to a sell out 350 seats, the theatre was going to lose over $300,000 per year in running costs.
Above: Blind Freddy can see that the theatre income and expenditure projections indicate a loss and the above figures are based on 12 performances per year, running for nine nights each to full houses of 350 people each and every night. Yet the grant was approved knowing full well the projected costs would burden the community who would have to cover the shortfall. We don't know what happened to this application other than the very strange circumstance that on March 25th 2020, just four weeks later, Andrew Constance publicly announced the theatre had been awarded the grant. As it turns out the theatre WAS awarded the grant, not in Round One but in ROUND TWO that was only opened three months later on Sunday 1 July 2018 and closed on Friday 21 September 2018. By this revelation it can only be assumed that the grant application with its very flawed business plan did not pass scrutiny and more than likely did not pass the panel of review established for Round Two applications. A team of experts had, in 2018, been appointed to assess more than 150 applications for the Regional Cultural Fund grants and ranked the 116 successful projects in the order they should be funded. It is further revealed that documents obtained by the ABC, under freedom of information laws, reveal their advice was largely ignored. ABC say Deputy Premier John Barilaro and then-arts minister Don Harwin signed off on the Regional Cultural Fund grants in late 2018 and that documents reveal Mr Barilaro and Mr Harwin even signed off on cash for at least eight projects that were not recommended for funding. According to the ABC the Mackay Park theatre grant application was positioned at Number 72 in Round Two. But keep in mind that the $8 million requested by the grant was already announced by Andrew Constance six months before winners were announced. And when announced and officially listed Mackay Park was the highest beneficiary in the State Mackay Park Arts and Cultural Centre ($8,000,000) The Mackay Park Arts and Cultural Centre in Batemans Bay will be a purpose-built exhibition, workshop, rehearsal and performance centre and storage space that will service the region’s art, theatre and dance groups as well as the broader community. The facility will have a flexible auditorium with retractable seating for 500 people; rehearsal and dressing rooms, green room and exhibition space and storage. The site will also play an important role as the gateway into focal new recreation, community and tourism precinct for the town. So how did Andrew Constance manage to make an announcement on March 25th 2018 that the Mackay Park Arts and Cultural Centre ($8,000,000) had been granted when Round One had not yet been closed and Round Two opening dates not yet announced. Was this a "Captain's Call" made by John Barilaro and then-arts minister Don Harwin, to award an $8 million Cultural grant under Round Two, without any financial scrutiny of the application, four months out from Round Two even being announced as open. With a known failed application for the Feb 2018 Office of Sports Grant for the proposed separate leisure centre component, having failed to show any Sporting element, it appears that a combined announcement by the Member for Bega and Premier during a One Day spending spree on the South Coast of $37.8 million came with a crystal ball or possibly a very well connected insider head-nod in the right circles. The Mackay Park theatre project has now been well and truely sullied by the remarks made by Mr Barilaro who ABC report as saying "those "arty types" don't always know what's best for the community" and Andrew Constance saying "Governments get to make the decisions, not bureaucracies." That statement in itself shows no respect at all for six-person panel that included four independent assessors, as well as one representative from the State Government agency Create NSW and another from the Department of Premier and Cabinet. It also makes a mockery of the entire Grant Application process where applicants pour over forms and assessment criteria. As it stands the Grant Application for the Theatre should have been rejected on first glance as it failed the key Assessment Criteria of affordability and sustainability.
How did Constance know in March 2018 that the Mackay Park theatre $8m grant application would be approved under the Regional Cutural Funds Round Two that did not open until July 2018 with winners not announced until October 2018?