Bunker Cartoon Gallery to get $300,000 funding

Coffs Harbour’s Bunker Cartoon Gallery has been approved a $300,000 funding boost over the coming two years to help establish a world class permanent exhibition. Photo: Emma Darbin.

 

THE Bunker Cartoon Gallery is set to receive $300,000 in Council funding over the next two years to assist with its operation and the installation of a world class permanent cartoon exhibition at the tourist facility.

Bunker Cartoon Gallery chairman Paul McKeon spoke for a funding request for the Gallery at Coffs Harbour City Council’s meeting on Thursday 10 June.

“Since the new gallery opened in February it’s been hugely popular,” Mr McKeon said.

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“The attendance figures for the first four months of our operation are up 300% on the figures of previous years and the feedback from visitors who go there is unreservedly optimistic; they love the place.

“We suggest the Council and the community are getting great value for money from the National Cartoon Gallery and we intend to make the Gallery one of the top three tourist attractions in Coffs Harbour, and that would make it financially sustainable.”

Mr McKeon said the Gallery board was “committed to finding another $2 million to create a high tech permanent exhibition which will become a must see tourist attraction”.

“The gallery is a major cultural and tourist attraction for our city and a great addition to our tourist product,” Mr McKeon said.

“When this permanent exhibition is finished the gallery would have delivered a $5 millon attraction to our city.

“No other town or city in Australia has a Cartoon Gallery, it’s unique.”

Council staff had recommended allocating only $150,000 in funding to the Gallery, one year of the funding asked for by the Bunker Cartoon Gallery board.

Mr McKeon expressed his concern that this recommendation to allocate only part of the funding left the Gallery
“in the hands of the next Council, and we have no idea what the attitude of the next Council will be in regards to cultural activities”.

“We think it is far safer for the Gallery if it’s possible for the total amount to be allocated,” Mr McKeon stated to councillors.

Cr Keith Rhoades moved an alternate Council recommendation to allocate the full funding asked for by the Gallery in stages, including $150,000 this financial year, $150,000 in 2022/23 and the provision of $50,000 this financial year as a grant.

“Sometimes we lose sight of assets that we have as a Council on behalf of our community, this is one of them,” Cr Rhoades said.

“We are the owners of the asset; what we are doing in respect is supporting an asset that we own.

“This gives that surety about being able to go to the next step within this asset.”

Cr Michael Adendorff labelled the tourist facility “very important” and “very unique”.

“I think sometimes we don’t know what we have here,” Cr Adendorff said.

“It’s an important cultural asset, it’s an important national asset, it’s an important Council asset, and it’s an important community asset and we have the money.

“This is not only about the Bunker Gallery in my mind, it’s also about City Hill and what could happen there.”

However, Cr Paul Amos said he couldn’t support the recommendation because he believed the Gallery had received enough Council funding already.

Council has previously allocated $155,000 to the Gallery in 2018, and another $189,000 in 2020.

“The Bunker Gallery have had their turn over the last little while,” Cr Amos said.

“I really wonder if we’re doing the Bunker Gallery a great service here in continuing this on in some respect because it might be time for the Bunker Gallery to work through it, find their feet to make them sustainable.

“I think it’s time for us potentially to step back, assess future funding on its merits.”

Councillors voted to approve the full funding in stages four votes to two, with Crs John Arkan, Michael Adendorff, George Cecato and Keith Rhoades voting for the full funding and Crs Paul Amos and Sally Townley voting against.

Under the approved resolution, Council will provide $150,000 in the final 2021/22 Operational Plan for the Bunker Cartoon Gallery, $150,000 in the 2022/23 Operational Plan for the Gallery subject to the presentation of current year financial reports and forward budget estimates, and $50,000 in the 2021/22 Operational Plan for the Gallery as a grant to facilitate the preparation of a grant application for the permanent exhibition.

The permanent historic exhibition will depict the history of Australia from the year 1900 through cartoonists’ eyes.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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