Feds secure funds for gaol project

A LABOR candidate has vowed federal funds for a $25.8 million theatre development would be secure if opponents delay construction of the project.

Bendigo Labor candidate Lisa Chesters met with Regional Development Minister Simon Crean in Canberra yesterday.

“Simon Crean has reassured me that if the VCAT appeal takes longer than anticipated it won’t affect the federal government’s funding for the project,” she said.

“While there is normally a strict time frame governing Commonwealth funding for projects, the minister has said that any delays that are beyond the control of sponsoring organisations will not affect the availability of funding.”

City of Greater Bendigo councillors last night endorsed a planning permit for the project.

Objectors could appeal the permit to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which could prevent construction starting this year.

The federal government has committed $12.3 million to the development from the Regional Development Australia Fund.

The funds came with a six-month shovel ready clause.

The 1000-seat theatre would be a joint project between the CoGB and Bendigo Senior Secondary College.

The state government will contribute $11 million to the project and the CoGB has forecasted $3 million but expects the final figure will be closer to $5 million.

“I am very supportive of this exciting project and the people of Bendigo should not have to wait any longer than necessary for the completion of what will be a world class performing arts facility,” Ms Chesters said.

 Earlier: THREE objectors hold the key to the future of a $25.8 million theatre development in Bendigo.

Former City of Greater Bendigo mayor Daryl McClure, his wife, Elaine Chang, and Ted Coleman have formally objected to a planning permit for the proposed 1000-seat theatre in the former Bendigo Gaol.

A report to tonight’s City of Greater Bendigo meeting has recommended councillors approve a planning permit for the development.

The project has attracted $12.3 million in federal government funds, $11 million from the state government and $3 million from the council.

The federal contribution came from the Regional Development Australia Fund and includes a six-month shovel-ready clause that requires construction to start this year.

Mr McClure yesterday failed to rule out appealing a planning permit to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal should councillors approve the application tonight. An appeal to VCAT could prevent the matter from being resolved in time for construction to start this year.

The development is a joint City of Greater Bendigo and Bendigo Senior Secondary College project.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands the applicants would have to apply for an extension to the federal government if the project was unable to proceed on time.

Mr McClure said he was against the development because of car parking, costs and the impact the development would have on Rosalind Park.

“I would have to have a think about (appealing to VCAT),” Mr McClure said. 

“I am very, very concerned about land grabbing on Rosalind Park.

“Just because the area is not pretty, just because we are driving over it is no reason why forever and a day we should go and turn it into a car park. Land grabbing in Rosalind Park is just wrong.”

City futures director Stan Liacos said it was crucial construction started on the project this year to guarantee the development’s future.

“There is the possibility that we will lose the funding if we are not under construction this year,” he said.

Mr McClure said he believed the federal government would honour its commitment even if the project was delayed.

But he said it was worth missing out on the funds to ensure Bendigo received an appropriate theatre rather than the existing “half-baked proposal”.

Federal Regional Development Minister Simon Crean yesterday offered his support for the development.

“Transforming the Bendigo Gaol into an arts and cultural hub will deliver strong social and economic benefits to the region – that’s why the project was successful in securing regional development funding,” he said.

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