Council bid to save art gallery revamp  

Olley bequest held up 

THE Newcastle ‘‘leadership group’’ attempting to salvage the city’s $21 million art gallery redevelopment will meet Premier Barry O’Farrell on Wednesday in a last-ditch bid for state funding.

The meeting comes at a critical juncture for the gallery – if the missing funds are not found in the next week, the expansion project will almost certainly collapse.

The Newcastle Herald has confirmed that the federal Department of Regional Development has given Newcastle City Council until next Tuesday to commit to the redevelopment.

If not, the government will cancel its contract with the city and withdraw a $7million grant.

The leadership team – chaired by NSW Industrial Relations Commission deputy president Rod Harrison – has spent the past six weeks attempting to finalise a proposal.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy, federal MP Sharon Grierson, state MP Tim Owen and art gallery foundation chairman Robert Henderson will meet with Mr O’Farrell.

The council has more than $7million set aside for the project, including money from private donations, but has baulked at having to commit any additional money.

Mr O’Farrell has made it clear that no money will be allocated in the state budget to be handed on June 18.

But the gallery redevelopment could potentially proceed with a formal commitment from the state to provide the money over subsequent budget cycles.

Mr O’Farrell told ABC radio recently that: ‘‘if I had the money, I’d happily consider it’’.

‘‘We’re not saying never, but what we’re saying is, that in this next budget we don’t have the dollars to set aside,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

‘‘But there will be in the next budget some announcements around other issues across the Hunter that will also hopefully address the basic services that people want to see improved.’’

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