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Clarence Valley Council will continue to fund the outdoor lighting costs of Grafton’s Christ Church Cathedral, with a motion to consider more energy efficient lighting to come before a future council meeting. Image: contributed

Cathedral outdoor lighting costs

Rodney Stevens

Paying the ongoing outdoor lighting costs of Grafton’s Christ Church Cathedral will be debated at a future council meeting after councillors voted against a staff recommendation to cease the funding, which council has paid since the 1990s.

Christ Church Cathedral’s Dean, Reverend Naomi Cooke gave a strong deputation to councillors saying the lights would go out without council funding, which over the past four years has averaged $2168 per year.

At the April 23 Clarence Valley Council CVC meeting, Cr Greg Clancy, chair of council’s Climate Change committee moved the officer’s recommendation with an addition to point three (in brackets), which was seconded by Cr Bill Day that council:

  1. Note the Climate Change Advisory Committee recommendation and cease funding of electricity for outdoor lighting at the Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton;
  2. Advise the electricity retailer to cancel the CVC electricity accounts relating to the outdoor electricity use at the Christ Church Cathedral; and
  3. Advise the owners of the Christ Church Cathedral of Council’s resolution (and advise it would be appropriate for the Cathedral to apply for a council grant to cover the costs.)

Cr Karen Toms asked General Manager Laura Black if it was correct that community organisations can’t apply for grants for recurrent operating costs.

“That’s correct…the program that council has available is not for operating costs of an organisation,” Ms Black said.

Mayor Peter Johnstone said the motion was put forward to reduce carbon emissions, then he asked councillor Clancy how his alteration to part three of the motion will help stop carbon emissions and whether it was part of the committee’s terms of reference to save council money.

Cr Clancy said the motion was put forward to reduce carbon emissions but also there was a concern that rate payers are paying for the Cathedral’s electricity costs.

Cr Debrah Novak then asked Ms Black if the motion is unsuccessful, whether council would continue to fund the lighting costs and whether the lights would be part of a future council sustainable lighting review, to which Ms Black confirmed council will continue to fund the lighting if the motion is lost and the lights would be part of a council efficiency review.

Cr Clancy said the motion sets a precedent and there are potentially other locations in the valley that council should consider funding lighting costs.

Cr Day said the Cathedral was the most prominent of all historic buildings in Grafton and its definitely important that the outdoor lighting continues. 

Cr Jeff Smith said Grafton needed to look after its tourism drawcards like the Cathedral and ultimately, $2000 a year was a “spit in the ocean” compared to council’s expenses.

Cr Smith said he was concerned a precedent would be set and other organisations would look for funding from council.

Cr Karen Toms said she would be voting against the motion as council had paid the Cathedral’s lighting bill for 27 years which is “peanuts in a multi-million-dollar budget” of council.

Cr Allison Whaites said she would be voting against the motion as the Cathedral support the vulnerable, single mums and the homeless in the community and for council to pay $6.29 a day in electricity costs for the community support the church provides was worth it.

Cr Pickering said he respected the Climate Change committee’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint, but he would be voting against the motion.

Cr Debrah Novak put forward a foreshadowed motion to delete items two and three of Cr Clancy’s motion and add a new point two “Clarence Valley Council to review the lighting arrangements with the Christ Church Cathedral”.

Cr Clancy said his motion was not against the Cathedral, he said he supported all the wonderful community work the church does, and he was representing the views of the committee who wanted the motion put forward.

Cr Clancy’s motion was defeated 8 votes to 1.

After Mayor Johnstone suggested that a motion be put forward at a future council meeting to discuss reviewing the type of lighting at the Cathedral to potentially cut costs, Cr Novak withdrew her foreshadowed motion.

The item will be debated at a future council meeting.