Newcastle council has run into another brick wall trying to get money out of the NSW government for expanding its art gallery, despite upping its contribution to $16 million.
Arts Minister Don Harwin told a budget estimates hearing on Thursday that the Newcastle Art Gallery expansion was a "good project" but he did not have an "existing funding stream from which I can fund it".
"I have made that clear to Newcastle council," he said.
Newcastle is not eligible for the Regional Cultural Fund, which has backed projects like $20 million for a conservatorium of music recital hall in Wagga Wagga, in the former electorate of Premier Gladys Berejiklian's ex-boyfriend Daryl Maguire.
Mr Harwin left the door open to finding a new funding source for Newcastle.
"I have the objective of trying to get an allocation, a funding stream, in either this budget or a future budget where a project like Newcastle Art Gallery would be eligible to apply," he said.
Newcastle councillors voted this week to increase the city's contribution from $10 million to $16 million.
Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation would provide $10 million from a bequest by long-time supporter Valerie Ryan and another $2.5 million in fundraising, leaving the government to fork out $10 million for the $39.2 million project.
Labor's Shadow Arts Minister, Walt Secord, pressed Mr Harwin on the government's funding decisions.
"So how do you reconcile the Wagga Wagga conservatorium of music: No business case and $20 million just tossed to that?" he asked.
Mr Harwin replied that the Regional Cultural Fund was "limited just to the regions".
"My view is that if funds are available and it can be managed in this budget there should be a capital works budget for cultural infrastructure projects not just outside Sydney but also in western Sydney and, possibly even under certain circumstances, in the eastern half of Sydney."
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