Crean calls NSW to account

FEDERAL Regional Development Minister Simon Crean has turned up the heat on the NSW government over its refusal to fund the $10.5 million Albury Art Gallery redevelopment.

Mr Crean said yesterday the state government had put the project at risk by not matching the $3.5 million that both the Albury Council and the federal government have promised for the project.

He declined to put a deadline on when the federal funding would lapse if the funding shortfall could not be solved.

Member for Albury Greg Aplin yesterday said he had exhausted all state government options to find the funds.

He also disputed suggestions by the federal government that a formal tripartite funding agreement existed for the project.

Mr Crean said the federal government remained committed to the gallery redevelopment.

“I am disappointed to hear that the NSW government has not yet committed to the funding partnership,” Mr Crean said.

“Their failure to commit jeopardises this project; I’ve told the council to keep persisting in its efforts to secure the funding from the NSW government.

“I urge the NSW government to see this great project in terms of the strong economic dividends it brings the region.

“It shouldn’t be seen just through the prism of its price tag.”

Mr Aplin said he had lobbied Arts Minister George Souris, deputy premier Andrew Stoner and the Premier Barry O’Farrell.

The government formally notified the council on November 14 that it wouldn’t back the project.

Pre-election promises made by the government elected this year have been given higher priority than the art gallery.

“They are promises which have been made and have been budgeted for,” Mr Aplin said.

“This one was never in the budget and for Mr Crean to say it was a partnership is garbage.

“There is no doubt it is a worthwhile project, but it is just a matter of whether the money becomes available.

“It wasn’t going to be plucked out of some non-existent discretionary fund.

“There is a bit of politics being played saying it’s a partnership. There was no agreement between three levels of government.

“It was more an opportunistic donation by the feds and it’s up to them to work out how they can keep that money alive.”

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