The recently renamed National Cartoon Gallery received $2.6 million in late 2018.
The recently renamed National Cartoon Gallery received $2.6 million in late 2018.

Gallery finances set alarm bells ringing

CONCERNS have been raised about the future financial sustainability of the Bunker Cartoon Gallery.

Despite being awarded a multi-million dollar State Government grant for their major expansion plans, the gallery is now requesting an additional $213,000 from Coffs Harbour City Council.

Prior to his retirement Coffs Harbour Nationals MP Andrew Fraser announced the $2.6 million grant to support the expansion.

Work was expected to be complete by the end of this year.

A report to be considered by Councillors at this Thursday's meeting refers to some 'unforeseen expenses' in the gallery's plan, which will see a second level added to the World War 11 bunker which houses 23,500 historical cartoons.

"In recent times the Bunker Cartoon Gallery has found that the budget estimates used in the (State Government) grant application have not been sufficient to cover the complete project expenditure to ensure completion of the project," the council report outlines.

The gallery is therefore requesting $113,000 to cover these unforeseen expenses.

In addition, they are requesting a one-off subsidy in the 2020/21 financial year of $100,000 to assist in operating costs in the year of construction of the extensions.

Reluctant to grant the full amount, Council staff have suggested providing $63,000 for the Essential Energy upgrade costs in the 2020/21 budget.

The report goes on to suggest that Councillors:

- Agree to provide a one off subsidy for operations in the 2020/21 financial year totalling $85,000.

- Note that provision of the above funding will cause a deterioration in the budget operating result for 2020/21 of $148,000.

- Note the concerns in regard to the future financial sustainability of the gallery which may arise at the conclusion of the construction project.

 

The Bunker chairman Paul McKeon, gallery manager Margaret Cameron, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight and Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh at a sod-turning ceremony in December last year.
The Bunker chairman Paul McKeon, gallery manager Margaret Cameron, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight and Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh at a sod-turning ceremony in December last year.

Coffs Harbour City Council has already provided financial support for the expansion plans including an initial payment of $30,000 to cover costs of preparing and lodging the development application.

Councillors including Paul Amos have questioned the process behind these payments in the past.

"The process is wrong. I want to apologise to all the other community groups who have gone through the correct process. If this is the way we decide business - we are setting a precedent by writing a further cheque without further justification less than a month after substantial funding was approved." Cr Amos said during a council meeting in September 2018.

The suitability of a World War II structure to house such a collection has been questioned by Councillor Sally Townley.

"The bunker was built as a bomb shelter back in the 1940s so you've got to ask: what's its viable lifespan? Is it really the ideal home for the collection?" Cr Townley said at the same meeting.



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