In the recent State budget, the NSW Liberal-National Government promised $100 million to create a regional arts fund, but on July 17, arts bureaucrats revealed that the fund is not what it is cracked up to be.
The fine print of the Regional Cultural Fund shows a mere $25 million will be now rationed across all of NSW’s rural and regional communities in 2017-18.
This is pitiful when the fund is compared to what is being spent in Sydney’s CBD. A massive $600 million is being poured into a three kilometre radius of the city.
Sadly, like all other areas of government expenditure, the funding is all going to Sydney – with country areas left to fight each other over the scraps.
In the June budget, the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin boasted that they were providing $100 million in funding for regional and rural art galleries, museums and community halls. We now discover that this is just a cruel budget hoax.
But the most insulting aspect is that the fund cannot go to hire staff, urgent repairs, on-going maintenance or operational costs.
Furthermore, this fund is very unfair. How will small communities compete with the larger better resourced regional centres?
Unfortunately, too often the Nationals promise a lot and deliver so little.
While I do not oppose the funding for Sydney’s opera house, the art gallery or theatres, rural and regional areas just deserve to get their fair share – and the Nationals must explain why all of the funding goes to Sydney.
Hon Walt Secord
Shadow Minister for the Arts
Deputy Opposition leader in the NSW Legislative Council