$2.1mil in funding for Southern Downs

SDRC CEO Dave Burges, Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery director, Mary Findlay, Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud, and SDRC Mayor Vic Pennisi.

By Dominique Tassell

The Southern Downs will receive over $2 million in funding through the Building Better Regions Fund, it has been announced.

Federal Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud, announced today that the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery and Library will be expanded thanks to $2 million from the latest round of funding.

A total of $2,106,579 in funding will go towards five different projects in the Southern Downs.

The Warwick Karting Club will receive $20,250 to upgrade their power supply.

The Stanthorpe & Granite Belt Chamber of Commerce will receive $21,329 of funding for their strategic plan.

Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) will also receive $40,000 for their supply chain mapping strategy, and $25,000 for their residential attraction strategy project.

The art gallery and library project has been in motion for over a decade, with it debated whether improvements should be made to the current facilities or a new facility built.

The space has faced issues with limited gallery space, safe storage of the art collection, and space for the public.

The matter of additional library space has also been raised.

Council stated that the consensus is that, whilst there is not currently a critical business need, there is a shortage of space and room for improvement in relation to operating as a contemporary library.

Multiple options were presented to SDRC, including a new single storey library off Locke Street with a civic centre and supper room, a new two storey library with exhibition space, a new build single storey library off Marsh Street, and an expansion to the existing library/art gallery in Weeroona Park.

It was anticipated that building a new site would cost the Council 12-18 million dollars.

In 2014 a concept design was prepared by Alwin Architects for a substantial extension of the existing art gallery.

A presentation was made at a workshop in December 2016 that explored a fairly modest proposal for upgrading various aspects of the existing facility.

Then in March 2018, Council engaged consultants Complete Urban to undertake the Stanthorpe Library Feasibility Study.

When it was announced that the Council would pursue the expansion instead of a new facility, Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said that Council weighed up which projects were the right ones to support across the region.

“We have a systematic approach to making decisions that best meet the needs of the community and region,” Mayor Pennisi said.

“The Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery has strong links in the community and the question surrounding how the facility would grow alongside the vibrant local art scene has been bubbling away for some time.

“A number of options at various costing levels have been considered over the years and the recommended expansion option presents the right balance for the art gallery to accommodate future needs of the community.”

Southern Downs Regional Councillor Andrew Gale stated that he was proud to be part of a Council that addresses concerns and does something instead of dreaming about what could be.

He says they find a problem and address it rather than “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

“I’m glad we’ve been able to reach some alignment with what the needs are and what we can sustainably apply,” he says.

“I’m very thankful to David Littleproud for this significant contribution.”

Mr Littleproud says the Government’s investment will deliver better facilities and create economic opportunities across the electorate.

“This is a proud day for the region in our fight to make sure we get our fair share,” Mr Littleproud says.

“The Government is backing these projects so local people have the facilities for the future, while creating jobs to boost our economic recovery.

“Each one of these projects has the potential to transform the Southern Downs. This is all part of our Government’s commitment to secure the future of regional Australia.”

Under Round 5 of the BBRF, the Government has committed almost $300 million to support 295 projects across regional Australia, which will create an estimated 9,900 jobs during the project period.

This latest funding round takes total support through the BBRF to $1.38 billion across nearly 1,300 projects.