There is no denying Coffs Harbour is a sporting mecca, but is the funding of sport the reason why the city is more a cultural desert than artistic oasis? Last week a councillor blew the whistle and asked why council subsidises sport but doesn't offer similar support to culture. The great sport v culture debate ?
By BELINDA SCOTT and GRAEME SINGLETON
COUNCIL balanced the books, sport went into the red ink, and culture got rapped over the knuckles.
Cr Jennifer Bonfield asked why losses for sport were acceptable but not losses for the Jetty Theatre at Thursday's meeting of Coffs Harbour City Council.
The city ended the financial year 2005-06 with a $375,286 surplus, described by staff as an excellent achievement. It is the first time for many years that Coffs Harbour City Council has achieved a surplus result without relying on reserve funds to balance the deficit.
Council will consider next month a report on cultural developments aimed to resolve disagreements over Jetty Theatre hiring arrangements and costs.
Mulling over the accounts on Thursday, councillors found that the Sports Unit had a budget overrun of $286,099 in the past few months of '05-'06, with the Wallabies losing $253,997.
Council staff said community support and the viable commercial margin for the Wallabies program 'obviously has continued to dwindle significantly and whether the intrinsic value from the ongoing recognition and exposure can offset this financial sustainability needs to be addressed'.
Events which were major contributors to sport's net losses were the Australian Touch Titles, which lost $64,353; the Orara Sevens, which lost $27,941 and the Eastern University Games, which lost $23,628.
The Sports Unit now has a new process for events approval, but the point was made that these events are not geared to profit as they are supported for economic development, city recognition and promotion reasons.
Cr Bonfield mounted a spirited defence of culture, saying the budget for sport was too generous and the budget for culture too tight.
Cr David Featherstone said the Wallabies had spent 45 days in Coffs Harbour last year but would spend only 28 days in the city this year.
International exposure for Coffs Harbour was a powerful argument for supporting the national rugby union team's training camp at Novotel Pacific Bay Resort in 1999 and the team is due to return for training camps in the city until 2007, after signing a new three-year contract in February, 2005.
At that time Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Keith Rhoades said it was 'almost impossible to measure the positive exposure Coffs Harbour has received through its association with the Wallabies', quoting the visit by the British Lions as one of the spin-offs.
Continuing grumbles about the Wallabies include the lack of involvement in community events by the players.
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