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Grant Funding Chased for Cinema

At last week’s Council meeting, Councillors resolved (by a 5:2 majority) to pursue grant funding through the Federal Government’s National Stronger Regions Funding program (NSRF) to redevelop the Moree Memorial Hall to include retractable seating and digital cinema equipment.

This matter was considered following recent consultation with the community where Council sought to better understand the community’s current usage of the Moree Town Hall (including the Community Library and the Banquet Hall) and its aspirations, priorities and future requirements for these buildings.

The community engagement involved a survey (which attracted over 300 respondents) and a town hall meeting, with the major conclusions including:

• Of those surveyed, the Community Library was currently the most used part of the facility (over 50% of respondents).

• 150 respondents attended live shows outside the Shire.

• 167 respondents attended a cinema outside the Shire, with some 20% of respondents visiting cinemas whilst outside the Shire over 5 times in the past 12 months.

• Climate control, comfort (seating), bathroom amenities and acoustics rated as the most critical areas requiring improvement in the Moree Town Hall.

• Overall, the redevelopment rated as “important” or higher by 64% of respondents.

In its budget for the current financial year, Council had set aside $1.18 million in loan funds to undertake certain statutory and capital upgrades to the building. (In terms of statutory upgrades, this related to matters such as electrical upgrades and building fire compliance, with capital upgrades relating more to amenity including climate control.)

Given the availability of these loan funds and the conclusions from the recent community consultation in relation to the “Makeover of the Moree Memorial Hall”, Council management recommended that MPSC pursue funding opportunities through NSRF in an amount of $1 million and a further $300,000 from the NSW State Government’s ClubGrants scheme. If such applications were successful, this funding (in conjunction with the loan funds) would have provided for most of the statutory and capital upgrades to the Moree Memorial Hall. At this time, the cost estimates for this stage of the project amount to just under $2.5 million.

Councillor von Drehnen moved an alternative resolution to increase Council’s loan funded contribution to $2 million to allow Council to seek a further $2 million from NSRF to complete the whole redevelopment project. It was proposed that this would provide for not just statutory and capital upgrades but also two (2) cinemas with retractable seating (one in the Memorial Hall and the other in the Banquet Hall), additional storage, the commissioning of a carparking investigation and additional security enhancements including CCTV within and externally to the building.

Councillor von Drehnen considered that the NSRF was made available by the Federal Government as a means of revitalising the bush for projects just like this. “If we only need to spend $2 million bucks to get a $4 million project, it’s a good deal,” he reasoned, particularly with interest rates on loan funds at an all time low at the present time.

The resolution was also keenly supported by Councillors Munn, Brazel, Cikota and Tramby.

Both Councillors Gall and Price expressed concern with proceeding with the full project without full cost estimates in relation to the capital project costs and the subsequent operational costs Council would be committing to with a cinema operation.

On the basis of Council’s resolution, staff have submitted the NSRF grant funding application by the prescribed due date of 15 March.

Councillors wish to thank community members who “Had their Say” on the Makeover of the Moree Memorial Hall through the online survey and town hall meeting.