At the launch of the Lennox Head Cultural Centre this week, the alliances and differences between local and state politicians were on show, along with some fine singing and a sparkling new venue.
Ballina Mayor David Wright told Echonetdaily, ‘This was for the whole shire. It started off as a sort of multi-purpose facility, didn’t fulfil anything really well, a lot of that was people pushing in the wrong direction, but now we have a facility that is equal to anything on the north coast, and I think it’s going to attract new people.
‘We’ve already had a lot of important people come here. Now if the movie studio all goes ahead, and movies are made in the region, perfect sound and perfect vision is going to showcase paradise out here.’
Mayor Wright said the revitalised Cultural Centre would tie into the improvements in the main street. ‘With $10 million for four or five hundred metres, it’s going to be absolutely magic.’
Ben Franklin MLC is the Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts, who works with the Minister on the Regional Cultural Fund. ‘I’m just so excited,’ he said.
‘I remember four of five years ago when David [Wright] and I drove around the shire talking about all the different things that needed to be done, and this was on that list of 33 things I think, and we’ve been working our way through them one by one.’
Mayor Wright said, ‘It was a very cheap drive round, because we took him for four hours, we didn’t give him a bloody cup of coffee or anything to eat, we didn’t stop and I didn’t stop talking!
‘He’s made so much change to our shire, unbelievable. And I called him David Copperfield this morning, I meant that, he just made things up here for real, and not just imagined.
‘I’ve always had a lot of good ideas, but we haven’t had the facility because of the way things have been,’ said Mayor Wright.
One of 136 projects
NSW Special Minister of State and the Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts, Don Harwin was in Lennox Head to open the centre, shortly after resigning from cabinet over a COVID breach, then being reinstated by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Minister Harwin said, ‘This fund was possible because of the way we managed the state. We’ve got a $100 billion infrastructure program at the moment, over four years.
‘The Commonwealth’s not spending that over ten. But it’s only possible because of the job we’ve done.
‘What it’s made possible is a vast improvement to various aspects of services and facilities that are really important to people who live in the regions. And this project is one of 136, that are making a real difference to communities big and small, right around the state,’ he said.
‘This is about an average size one actually. There are ones that are bigger and ones that are smaller, but it’s a game-changer for Lennox Head.’
The minister said that ‘fingers crossed’ arts venues would be back to 100% capacity by the end of the year.
Ballina MP’s view
Member for Ballina Tamara Smith also spoke to Echonetdaily at the launch. ‘It’s so wonderful to see our cultural centre upgraded,’ she said.
‘It is a fantastic facility, and I’m very pleased to see that our community’s going to benefit from this. Hearing the opera singer today and the acoustics, and all of the upgrades in terms of air conditioning is going to make such a difference to the community when they come here.
‘The carpet and the retrofit has made it seem much bigger, it feels so much more supportive for the community,’ she said.
In the wake of revelations about dodgy goings-on with the Stronger Communities Fund, described this week as ‘the largest pork barrel in in the country’ by NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge, Ms Smith added a word of caution about grant monies raining from above.
‘We welcome any funding to our community for infrastructure, but it’s important that that funding is made through fair and transparent means,’ she said.
‘We don’t want money that we don’t deserve, and it’s so important moving forward that grants funding becomes in this state utterly transparent and utterly separate from politicians.’