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Green light for Community Theatre

An independent business case study commissioned by Bland Shire Council has shown that a standalone Visitor Information Centre, Indoor Heated Pool and Community Theatre are all economically unviable.

However, in recognition of its value to the community and the level of public support, Council last night gave the green light to go ahead with the proposed Community Theatre while opting not to proceed with proposals to build a standalone Visitor Information Centre (VIC) or indoor heated pool at this time.

While placing its immediate focus on the Community Theatre, Council has refused to rule out either an indoor heated pool or stand alone VIC in the future and has ordered a review of the figures contained in the indoor heated pool business case report.

The Western Research Institute (WRI) was engaged to conduct independent comprehensive business case reports for all three proposals which were formally presented to Council’s July monthly meeting for consideration last night.

WRI considered community demand and sentiment as well as examining industry trends and standards, interaction of existing local and surrounding facilities, the potential demand and usage levels for upgraded services and the willingness of the community to pay and/or volunteer when building a business case for each of the projects.

The Community Theatre will be established within the West Wyalong Masonic Hall building and be largely funded by a $451,571 Stronger Country Communities grant from the State Government combined with additional funding from Council.

“If Council is interested in assisting to fund an important community service (cultural activity) with significant public support, with the understanding the project will be uneconomic, WRI can recommend this project. On the basis of economic viability alone, WRI recommends Council do not proceed with funding the community cinema,” the WRI report read.

The 95 seat theatre will feature state of the art facilities including a large screen to show new release movies, surround sound through 19 strategically placed speakers and modern amenities and kiosk facilities to create an authentic cinema experience. The theatre will also be used for live shows, performances and conferences.

A community survey undertaken by WRI showed that 74 per cent of respondents were likely to attend the community cinema while 34 per cent indicated they would volunteer.

“Council is pleased to manage and support the construction phase of the theatre in response to the strong demand shown by the community and the associated cultural benefits,” Bland Shire Council General Manager Ray Smith said.

“Additionally, the facility will be managed and operated by an independent and incorporated body and Council’s only financial commitment would be to the initial capital costs of establishing the theatre with no commitment to the ongoing operational costs”.

The report recommended Council not proceed with a standalone VIC or indoor heated pool on the basis of likely poor economic outcomes and a moderate to high financial risk.

The report acknowledged that increased VIC services and more prominent positioning would likely attract more visitors to the VIC but the potential benefits to the community are outweighed by the additional costs.

When asked if current VIC services were adequate, 38 per cent of general survey respondents answered yes and 39 per cent answered no while 24 per cent were unsure. A separate survey of 57 business operators found that 58 per cent of respondents do not believe the current VIC services are adequate.

However, only 39 per cent of respondents across both surveys believe the Bland Shire needs a standalone VIC while only a small percentage indicated they would be prepared to pay additional rates or accept a reduction in the level of other services to fund it. Less than a quarter of general survey respondents said they would consider volunteering.

In response to the feedback, Council’s July meeting agreed to undertake a review of current service levels at the existing VIC within the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, community feedback regarding a proposed indoor heated pool adjacent to the existing Holland Park Pool suggested the pool would not attract significantly more patrons and also indicated an unwillingness to pay higher rates or accept reduced services to support such a facility.

According to the report, the estimated construction cost is approximately $4 million and based on the operational costs derived from two Council owned pool facilities in the Central West and Orana regions would cost $559,672 in the first year to run with projected revenue of just $253,088. The full WRI report is available for download from Council’s website at under the Business Paper section.