Construction will begin on a regional Performing Arts Centre (PAC) in Goulburn following a vote of confidence in the project from the majority of Goulburn Mulwaree Council (GMC) councillors last week.
All but two councillors – Margaret O’Neill and Sam Rowlands – voted to proceed with the PAC.
Concerns canvassed at the council meeting included cost, level of use and audience demand. However, market demand and economic assessment conducted by Lawrence Consulting found that the net economic impact of the PAC would be ‘highly positive’ for Goulburn.
Councillors voted to accept the recommendations which increased the construction budget from $18,500,000 to $18,950,000 to include the fly tower, awarded the construction contract to Zauner Construction and endorsed Brewster Hjorth Architects to prepare detailed design plans for the amended design of the PAC to include the fly tower.
At the council meeting before the vote, Southern Tablelands Arts Executive Director Susan Conroy petitioned strongly for the fly tower as did Lieder Theatre Company Director Chrisjohn Hancock.
“One of the things we are talking about tonight is the fly tower – whether we have that or not. I have researched it and the message loud and clear is that to do the fly tower now is important. If you don’t do it now, you’ll never be able to retrofit it,” Ms Conroy said.
She also made a strong economic case for the fly tower inclusion: “When I talked to the Bathurst Entertainment Centre it was clear that without the fly tower there are much higher operational costs.”
This view was supported by Mr Hancock who spoke about the efficiency of a fly tower.
“One major advantage is that you can move everything off the stage quickly so another organization can use that space… it makes space useable more quickly.”
Responding to a question from Cr O’Neill about the use of the PAC by local and professional groups, Mr Hancock said the PAC’s success would largely be determined by who, and how, it was managed.
A fee structure which accommodated community user groups and a different level of fees for professional, business and touring groups was also important.
Deputy Mayor Peter Walker spoke strongly for the PAC, asking Director of Operations Matt O’Rourke how much the council was borrowing for the project. “$6.3m,” Mr O’Rourke said.
“I wanted to get that on the record,” Cr Walker said. He reiterated that it was a priority to employ “someone who can drive the bus”, before commending GMC staff for the incorporation of the fly tower which was “integral to attracting performances”.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Conroy said she was “thrilled” with the council decision.
“There are multiple ways the PAC will benefit this region. Queanbeyan’s performing arts centre is over 20 years old and we will become the nearest contemporary designed centre to attract audiences – there is an opportunity for the broader region to bring performances here,” she said.
“Young people don’t have to go elsewhere to perform and there are opportunities for employment generated by the PAC. It is essential to get the right person to manage it. You need to have an inspired and clever person who curates and programs the building and allows the local community to be a part of that.
“It is a significant development for Goulburn and a turning point. It’s pivotable. It’s going to mean a lot for a lot of people and is an exciting step for GMC. I can’t congratulate them enough.”
Former PAC Working Group member Chris Gordon welcomed the GMC decision.
“I think it’s great news that they’ve not only approved the PAC but seen the merit of a fly tower and included it in the project.
“I think the fly tower is so crucial to having a fully functional PAC that it would always have been deficient from the get-go without it,” he said.
“I hope the critics can at least entertain some of the positives this will provide for locals through their own use, and through attracting performers to town.”