I’ve been asked many times by members of the community to clarify my position on the Cowes Cultural Centre redevelopment.
It’s true, I don’t think the Cowes Cultural Centre should be a priority — right now. At this time, with a pandemic going on, and a global recession looming right around the corner, I don’t think I’m the only one on the Island who thinks we have more important things to be worrying about right now.
Let me be clear: I believe we need to redevelop the Cultural Centre. It is a woefully insufficient building that does not address the needs of the community, and the library is too small and out of date. I have been supportive of a Cultural Centre redevelopment for years, particularly as it regards to upgrading the library.
But not right now.
The only way that we can ensure we have the money to build a centre worth building is by making sure our local economy is stable and secure. The only way we can do that is by supporting our local community and business owners, and by ensuring that money is imported directly into our economy from other parts of Australia by attracting niche markets with small targeted events as soon as restrictions ease.
Only then, when our businesses have recovered and workers are back to receiving the wages and hours that equates to a decent living, then we can build a truly bang-up Cultural Centre.
It is conceivable that with a hall and a cinema inside the Cultural Centre, we may attract tourists from South Gippsland to come and see some films or some local productions. It is possible to generate library tourism as well. That’s all true. However, that stream of income is unreliable at best.
What I am suggesting is a logical approach of ceasing unnecessary spending until the economy has recovered enough to deal with a record-breaking cap-ex budget. I don’t assume that will happen for at least a couple of years.
But when it does happen – then we can rebuild the Cowes Cultural Centre.
Just not right now.
Mikhaela Barlow, candidate for Island Ward.
Authorised by Mikhaela Barlow, 57 Tampa Road, Cape Woolamai, 3925.