'Disappointment' over no funding for art gallery redevelopment

Art Gallery of NSW board president David Gonski (left) talks to Arts Minister Don Harwin at the announcement of the expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW on Wednesday. Picture: Daniel Munoz

Art Gallery of NSW board president David Gonski (left) talks to Arts Minister Don Harwin at the announcement of the expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW on Wednesday. Picture: Daniel Munoz

SUPPORTERS of the long-running Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment proposal are disappointed there will be no funding announcement from NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin while he is in the Hunter for a community cabinet meeting.

With the government confirming $244 million for the Art Gallery of NSW’s extension, and the minister expected to announce a regional cultural fund while in Singleton on Thursday, there have been hopes of state money for the Newcastle Art Gallery proposal. Mr Harwin toured the gallery last month and met a delegation led by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

But a spokesman for the minister indicated there was no announcement planned for the Newcastle project.

“He’s more than happy to listen to the proposal, and that’s what he did when he toured the gallery,” the spokesman said. “The ball is very much in Newcastle City Council’s court. After meeting with the minister, they understand what is required to get their proposal considered.”

Cr Nelmes said the council had submitted an updated business case to the government, seeking $26 million, which is the estimated full amount of the project. Under an earlier plan that fell over, the council committed $7 million. Cr Nelmes said that money was no longer in reserve, but the council could contribute about $2 million annually over two budget cycles. She said once funding was approved, the gallery redevelopment could be completed in 18 months. 

“I’m still very hopeful of working with the government to deliver this worthy project,” she said.     

Former lady mayoress and a driver of the project, Cathy Tate, said she was “very disappointed that at this stage there is no announcement”.

She said if the government could find $244 million for Sydney, and the state had benefited from the sell-off of assets in the Hunter, then “Newcastle deserves its fair share”.

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