Cobar Shire Councillors last week were called upon to make a quick decision on how to allocate $1.5million in tourism funding.
After much debate, councillors decided the money would be spent on upgrading the Great Cobar Heritage Centre.
The matter was “sprung on” councillors at last Thursday’s Ordinary Council Meeting after council was only made aware of the need for urgency at a Far North West Joint Organisation (FNWJO) meeting the day before.
Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko advised the meeting that councils were not permitted to use their allocated JO tourism funding as a council contribution towards other grant funded projects.
He said the JO funding needed to go towards each council’s own tourism projects.
A motion was put to councillors that $300,000 could be put towards the construction of a Sound Chapel and the balance of $1.2million go towards the upgrade of the Great Cobar Heritage Centre.
“These are two projects are sitting in your Community Enhancement Program,” Mr Vlatko told councillors.
Councillors debated the matter for some time with little support shown for allocating any of the funds to the Sound Chapel.
Cr Julie Payne said she didn’t believe the Sound Chapel project had a lot of support.
“Originally it was to be funded by the gentleman who came up with the idea,” she said.
Cr Jarrod Marsden said while he was not against the Sound Chapel project in principal, they had not yet seen any design plans nor a final detailed costing for the construction.
Cr Payne called for the funding be put to new, fresh tourism ideas and suggested looking at creating a mineral spa or a walkway across the Open Cut.
Cr Marsden said due to the urgency of a decision being needed, he believed the funding needed to go to “shovel ready projects” and that it should be allocated to something that was already in council’s plan.
Cr Chris Lehmann said he was concerned that councillors “were being backed into a corner” in having to make a rushed decision.
He said with regards to tourism, Cobar needed something to hold people in town and something that would bring people to Cobar.
Cr Lehmann said he would have liked to see the funding go towards developing a small camping area at the Newey and creating another area for visitors at the Old Res.
Other suggestions were made for the funding to be spent on tourism signage and at the youth centre, however it was noted these projects had already received other grant funding.
Councillors eventually voted for the full $1.5million tourism funding from the JO to go to Great Cobar Heritage Centre.
Mr Vlatko said the funding would aid with council’s major plans for the museum upgrade which includes the replacement of the roof and windows, the construction of a new entrance (as per the heritage architect’s plan which
will allow disabled access) and a complete review and construction of all the museum’s displays.