City of Busselton council approve performing arts centre development

A council green light for $38m performing arts centre

Another chapter has closed in the longstanding saga of a performing arts and convention centre in Busselton after council voted to proceed with the project at its September 8, 2021 meeting.

The development was approved by council 7-2, for the city to accept a tender that would not see construction costs exceed $38 million.

The cost is $10 million more than what was budgeted for in the City of Busselton's long term financial plan, and could see the city borrow $17 million if it is unable to secure additional funding which would reduce costs for ratepayers.

A $10.35 million federal government grant and a further $10.65 million contribution by the city has previously been allocated towards the development.

The project has been a divisive issue with sections of the community supportive of the facility and others concerned about rate increases and ongoing costs.

When tenders for construction came in at least $13 million over budget, it prompted the matter to go back to council with city officers recommending that all tenders be rejected.

Councillors agreed to conduct a community survey to help inform their decision which showed that 53 per cent of respondents did not want the project to proceed, 43 per cent wanted to go ahead in some capacity and 2 per cent were unsure.

It was councillor Phil Cronin's motion that won out with mayor Grant Henley and Sue Riccelli opposing the motion.

Both Mr Henley and Ms Riccelli had raised separate motions with the mayor preferring to complete the project in two stages.

Mr Henley's motion would have seen the project go back to the architects to be redesigned at a cost estimated at $500,000 and delivered a performing arts centre during the first stage to meet the previously approved budget.

At a later date, stage two could have delivered other components of the building such as a convention centre allowing the city more time to seek further funding for the project.

Ms Riccelli put forward a motion not to complete the project at this time based on the response from a recent survey which showed 53 per cent of respondents did not want the project to go ahead.

However, the majority of councillors agreed to proceed with construction of the centre at the increased costs raised through the tender process.