23 June 2023

Future of Narooma Arts Centre uncertain as construction costs escalate

| Zoe Cartwright
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Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland with Narooma School of Arts vice-president Bob Aston, committee member Petti McInnes, and NACC Project subcommittee members Russell Burke and Rob Hawkins in August last year. Photo: Narooma School of Arts.

What could you build for the community with $7 million?

Not much in this economy, according to the Narooma School of Arts (NSoA).

The NSoA are part of the Narooma Arts and Community Centre (NACC) Project subcommittee, who two years ago applied for a Bushfire and Local Economic Recovery Fund grant.

The group were successful, and were awarded $7.27 million from the Australian and NSW Governments.

Since then, the pandemic and inflation have hit the construction industry hard.

As a result, the group say it is no longer affordable to build a centre that would deliver the community benefits they envision.

A spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW says a review process for additional funds has been instigated. But organisers aren’t satisfied.

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“Despite the NSW Government inviting us to apply for additional funds once tender results were known and after subsequent negotiations, the Government is not able to provide sufficient additional funds to construct the original design,” NSoA spokesperson Bob Aston said.

“The NSoA committee and the NACC Project subcommittee feel to de-scope the design to the extent suggested by the Department of Regional NSW’s assessment panel would severely compromise the NACC’s functionality and viability.”

Mr Aston was also critical of the process of applying for additional funding.

The proposed centre is a community initiative on community-owned land with three multi-use studios and a large gallery.

Project organisers say it will be a centre for creativity and learning with health and wellbeing benefits for the whole region, as well as providing economic benefits from cultural tourism, training and job opportunities.

Organisers say it could also play a vital role in any future emergencies, although it is not clear what that role might be.

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Mr Aston said the community had worked on the project for more than 10 years, contributing more than $250,000 from its own funds and value-in-kind.

A spokesperson for the Department for Regional NSW said the Government had also proffered extra help to get construction of the centre underway.

“Considerable support has been provided to Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers’ War Memorial Hall Inc. to deliver the project, including the appointment of NSW Public Works as a project manager and the instigation of a review process for additional funds,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department of Regional NSW continues to work with the Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers’ War Memorial Hall on the development of their revised project proposal.”

Under the original schedule the centre was due to open in June – but now the NSoA have had to go back to the drawing board, the future of the project is uncertain.

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