The Coffs Harbour Bunker Gallery.
The Coffs Harbour Bunker Gallery. Trevor Veale

Council to help fund revamped Bunker Gallery

COFFS Harbour City Councillors tonight considered a proposal from the Bunker Cartoon Gallery to provide $180,000 in seed funding to implement plans for a major upgrade.

Instead they have supported an amendment put forward by Councillor Sally Townley to provide the funds in a more staged manner.

"I appreciate that the gallery is unique and world class and I whole heartedly support the proposal. I just think this amendment is a more prudent way of supporting it," she said.

It was a close call with mayor Denise Knight's casting vote ensuring the amendment was successful. 

The amendment will see the $180,000 broken down into stages including an initial payment of $20,000 to cover costs of preparing and lodging a development application and if that is successful further funds of $25,000 will be allocated to progress the project. 

Councillor Keith Rhoades spoke in support of the original motion to provide the full $180,000 in seed funding.

"No other major capital in Australia has a facility such as this. The Bunker Cartoon Gallery is something we should be very very proud of. 

"We have two very high profile events coming up in this country - one is a State election and one is a Federal election. What have we read in recent times? - both sitting members are departing their seats. 

"How many times have you read this seat should be more marginal. So now with members retiring this is a golden opportunity to attract funding to do this project."

Paul McKeon from the cartoon gallery spoke to councillors and answered a number of questions about the proposal including one from councillor Paul Amos about the value of the gallery and the collection.

"It's very difficult to evaluate and I have been told it is priceless. We have cartoons from leading cartoonists in Australia, we are talking in the millions of dollars - it is unique and it is extremely valuable," Mr McKeon explained.

Councillor George Cecato spoke against Cr Townley's amendment.

"I understand what she (Cr Townley) is proposing even though I don't agree.

"We have been elected to be responsible and we do have duty of care but this is a major asset. 

"This is something that will bring the city to the next level. 

"We cannot afford to miss the period of time the State government is prepared to give us some of these funds. 

"The original recommendation the right way to go."

The gallery proposal involves waterproofing the existing bunker by building a self-supporting platform above it and then building another gallery on this platform.

The new gallery would look like: 'a modern version of a WWII Nissen Hut to retain the bunker theme'.

This concept would double the gallery space and provide room for a café, commercial kitchen and a community work room.

The new exhibition space would trace major events in Australian history from 1900 till today, through the eyes of cartoonists.

Scaled down versions of this exhibition could be toured through Federal and State Parliaments and art galleries throughout Australia to generate additional revenue and to promote the Coffs Coast.

Another major element of the proposal is to expand the annual Rotary National Cartoon Awards (now in its 30th year) into an annual Cartoon Festival. 

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