Questionnaire pushes art gallery into picture as council election issue

Cathy Tate

Cathy Tate

The Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment is being pushed as an election issue, with a cultural group asking lord mayoral candidates where they stand on the controversial issue.

A questionnaire has been sent out by former lady mayoress Cathy Tate, from the Save Our Cultural Institutions group and an advocate of the gallery’s redevelopment, which has dragged on for a decade. 

Five lord mayoral candidates have responded. 

Mrs Tate said the group was seeking the candidates’ views on the art gallery’s future, because “it’s certainly an issue for some people in the electorate”.  

The document poses three questions. The first asks, if elected, would the candidate support the gallery’s redevelopment, according to a design presented to council in 2013. 

The second asks, “Do you agree that your role as a Councillor includes the responsibility of, care for, and development of the Newcastle Art Gallery?” 

The third poses whether the candidate would ensure that the council “contributes substantially” to the gallery’s redevelopment. The present design is estimated to cost about $26 million.

Labor candidate Nuatali Nelmes answered “yes” to all three questions, as did the Socialist Alliance’s Steve O’Brien, The Greens’ Therese Doyle and Independent Ron Brown.

Independent Kath Elliott answered “yes” to question two but qualified her other answers. Kath Elliott said she hadn’t seen the plans, but “I am aware that the design has been looked at with the view to staging the implementation and I support tackling Stage 1 as soon as it can be funded”. To question three, she indicated any contribution to the redevelopment should be “in line with community priorities”. 

Cathy Tate said the questionnaire results were being sent to about 200 people in Save Our Cultural Institutions and the art gallery’s society and foundation.

“For those who want to know where the candidates stand, this will give a clear indication of those who support the redevelopment, and those who don’t,” she said.  

In her cover letter to the candidates, Mrs Tate said the building was 40 years old and housed a collection worth more than $90 million, “the single most valuable asset of Newcastle City Council”. 


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