Goulburn's performing arts venue lags funding timeline

TIME PRESSURE: Building approval for Goulburn's new performing arts venue is a few months behind schedule but the council hopes it won't jeopardise a $1 million Federal grant.

TIME PRESSURE: Building approval for Goulburn's new performing arts venue is a few months behind schedule but the council hopes it won't jeopardise a $1 million Federal grant.

The council is running two months behind schedule on a timeline attached to federal funding for its performing arts venue.

The federal government granted Goulburn Mulwaree Council $1 million for the project under its National Stronger Regions program. Final design work is underway to convert the council-owned McDermott Centre in Auburn Street into an $11.4 million 400-seat venue.

But general manager Warwick Bennett said the council was two months behind in milestones attached to the grant funding. Under the terms, tenders had to be approved, legal approvals secured and a construction timetable agreed by March 31, 2017.

However the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel is not likely to consider the development application until June, a report to Tuesday night’s council meeting states. In addition, a construction tender wouldn’t go out until August, Mr Bennett said.

The work has been held up for several reasons, one being the need for archaeological investigations to determine if 1840s bushranger Thomas Whitton was buried near the site. That work will occur in the next month or two when the council also relocates a sewer line.

“We’ll see if there’s any sign of Thomas but all evidence points to him being beneath the Post Office,” Mr Bennett said.

Despite the delay, the GM says he’s hopeful the government will be flexible on the grant funding milestones. If it took a further two to three months to “get it right” then that was a good outcome, he told The Post. Mr Bennett also hopes to condense the construction period from 18 to 16 months.

The venue is proposed to be also funded through $1m from the Lilac Time Hall sale proceeds and accrued interest; $1.5m in cash; $3m in grants from either the Veolia Mulwaree Trust or a slice of the State Government’s $100m Regional Cultural Projects program; and the remainder through loans, tapping into the State’s low interest (2.5pc) loan subsidy scheme.

“We expect in the worst case scenario to raise $5.2m in loans...which is very manageable,” Mr Bennett said.

A council report last October put this figure at $4.5m.

Meantime, the council has allocated $450,000 annually for the venue’s net operational costs. This includes money to employ a manager from the end of this financial year. Mr Bennett said although the centre wouldn’t be completed until the end of 2018, the manager’s role was to ensure the space was used.

“We believe there’s opportunity to get 50 to 70 performances per year,” he said.

The council estimated $1m to $1.2m in annual running costs, with $600,000 to $800,000 to be derived in income.