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December 2, 2021

Iconic Lismore theatre sale on the cards

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The Rochdale Theatre in Lismore may be sold. (image, Lismore Theatre Company)
The Rochdale Theatre in Lismore may be sold. (image, Lismore Theatre Company)

Darren Coyne

Anyone in the market for an old theatre, infested with termites, asbestos and run-off issues?

Former Lismore councillor and long-time thespian Gray Wilson put on a sterling, albeit confusing, performance during public access at the Lismore City Council meeting this week.

Mr Wilson was speaking to a council report recommending that the iconic Rochdale Theatre in Ballina Road be sold.

But although the Lismore Theatre Company’s committee first mooted the potential sale, Mr Wilson informed the councilors there had been a change of heart.

‘We know the suggestion is to go to an expressions of interest or continue as is and the committee would like to continue as is,’ he said.

Mr Wilson said the Lismore Theatre Company, which used the Rochdale, was a non-profit making exercise which put money back into the show.

He said more than $250,000 had been injected into the theatre over the years, and despite lease requirements that rent go into maintenance, little had been carried out by the council.

He pointed out that the building would not be an attractive option for potential buyers as it had termite, asbestos and run-off issues.

He also said that the theatre company would probably fold if the theatre was sold to a third party.

And while he admitted that the committee had instigated the potential sale, he said there had been a change of heart.

‘Nobody in the committee has time to run it as a commercial enterprise,’ he said.

‘We would much rather stay on as tenants with the council as landlord, working to get more improvements to make the theatre more accessible.

Cr Greg Bennett moved an amendment to defer the matter for a further briefing but he was defeated.

Cr Vanessa Ekins moved that the council authorise the general manager to apply to the minister to have all caveats and restrictions removed from the certificate of title, and to begin the process to call for expressions of interest.

She said staff should report back to the council the results of the EOI process prior to any further action being taken.

‘We’re not interested in selling to the highest bidder. We want it to remain in community hands,’ she said.

All councillors except Greg Bennett and Gianpiero Battista supported the decision to call for expressions of interest.

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