Saturday, 20 August 2016

A plea from the heart to save a Clarence Valley icon

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Examiner, 17 August 2016:

THE dismantling of the Grafton Regional Gallery is an outrage and every effort to reverse the decision of the executive council must be made.

Should it be a surprise? No.

In June 2015 the Council had to prepare an application to IPART for a special rate variation to increase rates by 8%. The community was called upon to prioritise 24 listed services put forward by the Council.

In a letter to the Editor of the DEX, I drew attention to how significant infrastructure like the Grafton Regional Gallery and the Library have been built with Federal and State Government money. The community has also made important contributions.

It is totally unacceptable for the Director Environment, Planning and Community, Des Schroder, to say the identified saving for galleries and museum area was $25,000. In addition, of course, is the Council decision not to fund the capital art purchases for 2016/17.

This Gallery is probably the most important asset for the Clarence Valley. The professionalism of its staff together with the enormous contribution made by The Friends of the Gallery and the Gallery Foundation members and volunteers has made our Gallery recognised as one of the very best regional galleries.

How ironical it is that the Gallery has been featured over the past few weeks for wonderful events, such as the recent visit to Yugilbar Station and the Soups Day and today we read about the plans for Gate to Plate to be held in October.

Leaving aside social functions - which after all contribute to the liveability of a town - the JADA Exhibition (Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award) has received a record number of entries. This exhibition is held in high regard throughout Australia and receives entries from all states of Australia.

To suggest that the Gallery does not attract tourists just shows how totally out of touch the decision makers are. Recently at both the Yamba and Grafton Bridge Congresses, people spoke to me about the Gallery and I had to inform them that unfortunately it is no longer open on Sundays and there is no coffee shop. This is a recent example but it happens all the time.

I would like to inform those members of the Council executive that worldwide statistics show that more people visit galleries and museums than sporting fixtures. Sure, a sporting fixture attracts a large crowd for one event but those people then want to explore other attractions such as galleries.

The council elections will be held next month. It is our chance to ask candidates whether they want a liveable city or one that has a super and expensive depot so that the general manager can justify his priority of roads, water and sewerage (notes taken at the public meeting May 12, 2015).

Let us make sure we do not surrender our much loved title as "The Jacaranda City" to be replaced by "The Forgotten City".

Heather Roland

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