An artist’s impression of the proposed Margaret Olley Arts Centre.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Margaret Olley Arts Centre.

Gallery's future left hanging

IT’S time to have your voice heard. As debate rages about whether now is the right time to build a new regional gallery in Lismore, The Northern Star is asking readers to vote, with the results announced in next Saturday’s edition.

The need for a new regional art gallery in Lismore has been discussed since 2002.

The initial dream was large. It would encompass a new commercial/shopping centre development as well as residential/motel complex based around the old Lismore High School site.

It would also become the home of the library, artists’ workshops, an outdoor performance area and coffee shops.

With a price tag of about $18 million, the planned iconic Margaret Olley Arts Centre would rival that of the Tweed Regional Gallery and draw tourists to the region eager to view travelling quality exhibitions.

The plan was for the Federal and State governments, with council, all kicking in a third each – the council’s share would be paid for by the commercial development and accompanying multi-story car park.

However, that dream started to unravel when the Federal Government and private sector said they weren’t interested and the State Government cried poor.

Plans were subsequently scaled down, leading to the new $8 million version of the gallery.

The council intends to fund it by tendering for $4 million from the Federal Government’s next stimulus package (not guaranteed), $1 million which has been pledged by Southern Cross University and other private donors, and borrowing the remaining $3 million from the banks.

This size of the loan would carry annual repayments of $300,000, which would need to be found in the budget.

Council staff have also estimated the running costs of the gallery at up to $700,000 a year.

This year’s budget allows $740,000 to be spent on preparations for building the gallery, including the appointment of designers which will be finalised at next month’s council meeting.

Still, debate rages over whether this is the right time to build a new gallery in Lismore.

Opponents have called for a poll or survey to determine if residents would rather see the funds spent on other items, such as roads.

Last week in this newspaper Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell ruled out a poll saying councillors were elected to make decisions and they would make this one.

Although not all councillors have declared their hand, there is growing division in the chamber.

To assist councillors represent their constituents, The Northern Star is asking for your opinion.

To vote, simply SMS ‘yes gallery’ or ‘no gallery’ to 0428 264 948.

The poll closes at 5pm Wednesday, November 25.



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