Council quizzed on info centre rents, gallery shift

Council has agreed to support an expression of interest (EoI) from the regional art gallery for state government funding even though if accepted it must still consult the community on where the gallery might be located.

The plans, in council’s business paper August 30, to move the gallery to a site in Merimbula, opposite the airport, had a mixed reception. There was also surprise about the speed at which plans had appeared.  

The regional cultural fund will invest $100 million over the next four years, specifically to improve arts and culture infrastructure across regional NSW. The EoI closes September 4 and director community, relations and leisure Anthony Basford strongly recommended that a submission was made saying it was “imperative”.

“There is intense interest in this funding and we believe we should get into the game. If we don’t get in and then there are more applications, I’d hate to miss out,” Mr Basford said.

Usually a four-year program is carried out via annual submissions but both Mr Basford and the general manager Leanne Barnes appeared to suggest that might not be the case.

“The whole process a work in progress and things could change. It’s not about the two programs being in competition. The direction we picked up is we should work through the EoI process and if we’re not accepted it could be worked through for subsequent programs,” Ms Barnes said.

Council agreed to support the gallery’s EoI with the proviso it would engage with the community and consider financial management of the building in preparation for a formal application if successful with the EoI.

Council also heard from representatives of Visitor Information Centres in Merimbula, Eden and Bermagui, and the Historic Society and Meals and Wheels Bermagui, who spoke against huge rent increases that had been proposed by council.

Centre representatives said the increases were so severe that, if implemented, they would be unable to continue their work.

At the Bermagui Visitor Information Centre the rent of $500 will increase to over $6000

The centres rely heavily on volunteers to help provide information to tourists.

The matter has generated considerable backlash against the council proposals on social media and councillors were quick to defer the matter for further information until the next council meeting.