Lismore rallies tosave show heritageShowground?s closure would?rip the heart out of the city
By SHAN GOODWIN
LISMORE would be ripped apart by the closure of its showground which must be saved at all costs, community leaders said yesterday.
Deputy mayor John Chant and State Member for Lismore Thomas George have thrown their weight behind the fight to rescue the showground after its managers this week said a cash crisis could see the facility shut next year.
The Lismore Showground Trust has blamed skyrocketing maintenance and insurance costs for its predicament.
Cr Chant said saving the showground would require a complete overhaul of its management structure.
"It is clear there are problems. Times change and the people running the facility need to get tougher. The Trust perhaps needs to be narrowed down and include some astute business people," he said.
"A strong business plan would have to be developed for council to back the Trust and it may be that there are other opportunities for raising revenue, such as a motor or boat show, that could be looked at.
"I'm not trying to shoot bullets at anyone, but they have been going nowhere for some time and this is a very serious matter. The showground is an historical part of Lismore and we simply can't do without it."
Trust president John Gibson said the showground's managers were more than willing to make any changes deemed necessary.
But he said the Trust had certainly moved with the times.
In April, the 32-member Trust was reduced to nine members in a bid to tighten management, Mr Gibson said.
"And we are always taking on new ideas in order to appeal to more people," he said.
"Two years ago we moved from the traditional rodeo at the show to a ring arena in an attempt to attract a more familyoriented crowd.
"The people who run the showground are volunteers who give enormously of their time and they represent a wide section of the business community. I would argue they are fairly astute. But we are all more than happy to take advice on board."
The Trust team is: Mr Gibson, Lismore mayor Merv King, Roly Hull, Ron Chittick, Paul O'Neil, Donna Kildea, Ron Weir and Gordon Starkey. One member has left since April.
Cr King said he would declare a conflict of interest when the Trust's plea for assistance was put to a Lismore City Council meeting next week.
Mr George said stories of struggling showgrounds and community halls were too common in rural areas.
"The upkeep costs of showgrounds are horrendous and I've been making representations to Parliament on this issue since I was elected," he said.
"You could never measure what the showground does for a community like Lismore, and I believe it is now a community responsibility to act to see it does not close down."