THE proposed $100 million Joondalup performing arts centre will not progress to the design development phase.
Many councillors at last night’s meeting said the impending vote would be one of the biggest decisions the current council has faced.
With a packed gallery, the council voted to extend question time to the maximum of 25 minutes and then extended elected members’ speaking time to a maximum of 10 minutes each.
After more than an hour and a half of debate, the council voted 6-7 not to proceed the project to a design development phase.
Though many councillors agreed the City of Joondalup would benefit from a performing arts facility, the majority believed it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to proceed with the Major Project Committee’s recommendation.
Councillor Russell Poliwka, who also presented a 597-signature petition against the proposed performing arts centre, said he was disappointed the project was “this far down the track” – since first being proposed in 1992 – and there was still no external funding.
“We are talking about funding 100 per cent and that doesn’t gel with me,” he said.
“Joondalup ratepayers should not be carrying the burden for a regional facility.”
Also speaking against the recommendation, Cr Nige Jones said he was concerned about the low number of community consultation submissions received when the Ocean Reef Marina garnered 11,000 responses.
Over the six weeks, the City received 1542 responses, with 48 per cent in support and 41.9 per cent opposed.
Of these, 1289 were from City residents or ratepayers, with 40.4 per cent in support and 49.4 per cent opposed.
Of the 246 responses from outside the City, 87.4 per cent were in support and 2.5 per cent were opposed.
Cr Jones said there was “weak evidence of strong support” for the project.
Cr John Chester said the “impost on ratepayers would be unacceptable”.
“It’s project before its time,” he said.
Cr Russ Fishwick agreed and said the City needed to “walk away” and “look at a less costly” model.
However, Mayor Troy Pickard urged the council to progress to the detailed design stage so it could get a more accurate idea of costs, which would put the City in a better position to lobby for State and Federal funding.
He said the project was estimated to cost rateable properties $55 per year for 40 years, which was “reasonable and reflected other subsidies made in the City”.
These included a $98 a year per property for hire facilities, $99 for libraries, $37 for events and $17 for infant health.
“If you choose not to proceed, you are mothballing the centre,” he said.
“What is your alternate vision?
“We have six strategies formally adopted by the council that are underpinned by the performing arts centre.
“These will need radical transformation and we will need to divert our energy to another vision.”
Cr John Logan disagreed the project would be “mothballed”.
He said the City needed to “put the brakes on to get back on track”.
“It is too big an impost on ratepayers without significant funding contributions,” he said.
“There are merits to the project when its affordable, when the economic climate picks up and when there’s funding.”
Cr Liam Gobbert said not proceeding to the design phase would “create uncertainty” and the council would “look foolish”.
Cr Mike Norman said the council needed to “spend money to make money” but agreed if the City couldn’t secure funding, then the project “could not go ahead in its current form”.
Cr Kerry Hollywood said the council needed “a very good reason to turn our backs” on the project.
She reminded councillors that the cost of the project had already been factored in to its 20-Year Strategic Financial Plan and “would not have an additional impact on rates”.
However, fellow ward councillor Tom McLean said that was just a plan, not a budget.
“The money we are dealing with is not our money,” he said.
“It is ratepayers’ money and we must do what the ratepayers need, not what we want.”
Cr Philippa Taylor said the council “should not be scared of the recession”.
She said the City had recently accepted tenders for major projects cheaper than expected and that could also happen for the performing arts centre.
Since 2009, the City has spent $2.4 million on the project including initial investigations, a feasibility study, schematic designs, the business case and review and staff hours.
It had budgeted $3.8 million in the 2017-18 budget, of which $1.7 million would have been spent on the design development phase.