The National Multicultural Festival may have to expand further into Glebe Park or move entirely from the city in two years as major developments impinge on the current festival footprint.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Tara Cheyne told Budget Estimates that the festival had only been funded for the next two years due to light rail, major development at Garema Place and the coming Canberra Theatre redevelopment, necessitating changes to where the festival will be located.
She said this would also have an impact on how the festival would be funded.
“We have a fair idea what it would look like over the next two years but that gives us an opportunity to effectively look again at the footprint, where we might need to go or expand and what the costs associated with that might be,” Ms Cheyne said.
She said under questioning from Liberal MLA Mark Parton that Civic would remain the home of the festival “definitely for the next two years”.
“But we have to review the fest footprint every year and we have been doing that,” she said.
“The footprint has changed, there will be major changes to Civic Square and Garema Place so we’ll be working through in years to come exactly what that footprint is.”
Ms Cheyne admitted to being nervous about how the Glebe Park expansion would be received but said it had been a success with the community.
She indicated that expanding further into the park was on the table.
“We’re in a portion of Glebe Park so there may be some opportunities there as well as we consider what the footprint is in the future,” Ms Cheyne.
She said the city offered many benefits, including being able to interact with businesses and have multiple stages.
Ms Cheyne would not be drawn on whether the festival might have to move altogether from Civic as developments proceed, saying that was hypothetical.
When pressed about whether any consideration was being given to a relocation, she said: “Not at this stage.”
Ms Cheyne told Estimates that the 2023 festival was the best ever and had set the benchmark for future events.
She said it generated $20.8 million for the ACT economy, up significantly from the 2022 figure of $12.2 million, and attracted more than 40,000 visitor nights with an average stay of 2.2 nights.
Post-festival market research also showed that people were happy with the event, with 92 per cent of visitors to the event satisfied or very satisfied and a 10 per cent increase in the number of visitors who rated it five stars out of five.
Ms Cheyne said the expanded site was well received, saying it was a big festival but did not feel crowded, helped by the reorientation of the stalls so queues did not bump into each other.
She said there were more communities participating than ever before and more showcases, 30 up from the previous 10 or 12.
The value of grants had doubled to $180,000 and would be increased to $200,000 next year.
Pressed by Liberal Peter Cain about the cost of stalls, Ms Cheyne said that had been held at 2018 levels and would be the same next year.
Mr Cain also questioned Ms Cheyne on an election promise to build a new multicultural facility at Exhibition Park, and in a testy exchange accused her of breaking that promise.
Ms Cheyne said the refurbishment of the Fitzroy Pavilion would meet that promise, and it would be completed within 12 months.