Labor has again committed $14 million to expanding Newcastle Art Gallery, a project now costed at about $45 million, if it wins the March state election.
Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp raised the saga of the art gallery’s expansion as an election issue when he announced the funding commitment on Monday.
He made an identical commitment before he won the seat in a 2014 by-election, on the proviso Newcastle City Council contributed $7 million to what was then a $21 million project.
Labor lost the 2015 election, but two years later the council submitted a business case to the Coalition government asking for a $26 million contribution.
Arts Minister Don Harwin handed over $244 million for the Art Gallery of NSW extension in the 2017 state budget but rejected Newcastle’s request.
Newcastle lord mayor Cr Nuatali Nelmes said on Monday that the latest Labor pledge was “definitely close to a third of the way” to funding the project, suggesting the cost has grown considerably in the past two years.
The council would contribute “close to another third” from special rate variation funds if the federal government paid the rest.
The council is updating the business case with help from a gallery expansion working party it formed last year.
“Business cases, like any document, become out of date. We’re expecting a draft this month that we’ll be able to present to government,” Cr Nelmes said.
“It is shovel-ready and has been for a number of years.
“There’s an approved DA for the redevelopment, and the business case will include options that can be resubmitted back to Treasury.
“In particular, it will update the estimates, because since the last time this project was mooted it will have CPI and some increase in building costs.”
Mr Crakanthorp challenged Mr Harwin to match Labor’s gallery commitment.
The art gallery’s expansion has been the subject of bitter debate for more than a decade, especially during the reign of former lord mayor Jeff McCloy from 2012 to 2014, when the city was forced to hand back a $7 million federal grant after failing to secure state funding.
Read more: Council floats City Hall art gallery
A new gallery would include more exhibition and storage space, a secure loading dock and a cafe. The gallery exhibits only about two per cent of the 6400 works in its collection each year.
Working party chair and former lady mayoress Cathy Tate said the “best regional collection in Australia” was housed in a “very poor building” which needed to be brought up to 21st century specifications.
She said Monday’s announcement “doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to happen, but it certainly brings it one step further”.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the government had provided feedback on the business case since 2017 but would not make a decision until the final version had been reviewed.
Deeper reading: NSW election 2019
- Liberals endorse Sally Halliday in Maitland, Blake Keating in Newcastle (January 28, 2019)
- Salamander Bay fire station hours to extend if we win election: Labor (January 25, 2019)
- Greens NSW election candidate for Wallsend Sinead Francis-Coan calls for fellow candidates to take Safe State pledge against domestic violence (January 25, 2019)
- Labor pledges to bring back ministers for Hunter, Illawarra and other regional areas (January 23, 2019)
- Objectors say Environment Ministers approval of Wallarah coal mine will cost key seat (January 21, 2019)
- Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair says only 'very brave person' would remove shark nets despite drum-line trial (January 21, 2019)
- Newcastle Art Gallery expansion project grows beyond $40m as Tim Crakanthorp revives Labor funding commitment (January 21, 2019)
- Liberals' Scot MacDonald out of running for Newcastle, Maitland (January 21, 2019)
- Long road ahead for Nelson Bay despite Gladys Berejiklian funding commitment (January 20, 2019)
- Labor lines up Cessnock deputy mayor Melanie Dagg to replace Martin Rush as Upper Hunter candidate (January 19, 2019)
- Greens announce candidates for Newcastle and Wallsend (January 17, 2019)
- Premier Gladys Berejiklian says extra $100m Hunter Water dividend will flow into state's consolidated revenue (January 15, 2019)
- Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces another $205 million for Nelson Bay Road upgrade (Janaury 15, 2019)
- Liberal Party spends $700m in Newcastle but no candidates in sight (January 15, 2019)