Council votes to conclude Cultural Precinct EOI

Date published: 19 December 2016

Ratepayers could face annual rates increases of up to 8.9 per cent if proposals for a purpose-built arts and cultural facility were to go ahead.

A special meeting of Townsville City Council today unanimously voted to conclude a process that called for private developer interest in the provision of a new art gallery, library and concert hall in the CBD, which would then be leased back to council.

While competitive submissions for Expressions of Interest in a new arts and cultural precinct were received, an internal and external review of council’s financial modelling found both shortlisted submissions to be unaffordable over the life of the project.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said while council was supportive of the call for a vibrant cultural precinct in the city, it was vital that any development did not become a financial burden for local residents.

It was also important to ensure that any development was in keeping with the vision for Townsville, she said.

“The EOI process released in March was designed to allow us to compare leasing privately constructed facilities against council funding and building the facilities,” Cr Hill said.

“Since that time, our landscape has changed dramatically to now include a redefined direction for Townsville under the City Deal. We have also received funding for the North Queensland Stadium and a Waterfront Promenade.

“It’s important we now rethink the strategic direction for the city to ensure any such development is both cost effective and in keeping with the vision for a vibrant, modern Townsville.”

Cr Hill said the decision to conclude the EOI process followed an internal assessment of the shortlisted submissions using council’s financial model, which was then reviewed by independent assessor, KPMG.

“KPMG confirmed our audit, concluding that acceptance of either proposal would commit us to a rates increase of between 5.25 and 8.9 per cent for the life of the facility,” Cr Hill said.

“My council is very supportive of the call for a cultural precinct in the CBD and I give my commitment that we will continue to pursue the idea however, we have a responsibility to ensure any development does not become a financial legacy for residents – now and into the future.”