Cultural Precinct Revitalisation: A New Performing Arts and Convention Centre

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This site provides information about the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre and the development of a Cultural Interpretation Framework for the Cultural Precinct in Queen Street Busselton. It is being updated regularly to help you stay informed.

Update - 11 September 2020

To date the City of Busselton has been unsuccessful in securing $9.5 million from the State Government to support the development of the Performing Arts and Convention Centre. As a result, and in line with Council's resolution on 24 June (C2006/066), the project budget and scope has been reduced from $30.3 million to $28.5 million.

While the

This site provides information about the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre and the development of a Cultural Interpretation Framework for the Cultural Precinct in Queen Street Busselton. It is being updated regularly to help you stay informed.

Update - 11 September 2020

To date the City of Busselton has been unsuccessful in securing $9.5 million from the State Government to support the development of the Performing Arts and Convention Centre. As a result, and in line with Council's resolution on 24 June (C2006/066), the project budget and scope has been reduced from $30.3 million to $28.5 million.

While the City will continue to pursue all external funding opportunities, the project will progress to tender without inclusion of the Creative Industries Hub.

In accordance with the resolution noted above, Council will consider the outcomes of the tendering process and final pricing before determining whether the project will ultimately continue. Pending the outcomes of the tendering process Council may endorse (as a funding strategy) entering into loan borrowings of up to $15 million over a 20 year period and / or the use of reserve funding.

The loan amount may be considerably lower given the highly competitive tendering environment - we've already received seven expressions of interest from the construction industry - three from local businesses and four from Perth-based businesses.

Useful Resources

On the right you can access a library of documents relating to the Performing Arts and Convention Centre development.

This includes an updated version of the Business Case which was submitted to the State Government in June this year requesting funding support for the project. The Business Case was updated on 10 September 2020 to remove references to the BEACH noting that no name for the centre has been determined yet. The update also includes an important addendum to the original submission. Milestone dates have also been updated.

A prospectus provides information about how the centre will look, feel and function. A summary overview of stakeholder engagement is also attached for those interested in seeing how the project has developed over the past decade.

You can also access the latest designs and concept drawings supplied by Architects Kerry Hill, noting that these designs may be refined further as consultation with stakeholders continues.

A list of FAQs is also available covering a range of questions.

You can also share your views on the development of a Performing Arts and Convention Centre and ask questions of City Officers, Councillors and other community members in the open forum. Some prompts are included under the forum tab below but don't feel constrained as these are just conversation starters. This open discussion is a good thing – we need to share our collective passion and concerns. In posting and responding please respect the views of others. If you prefer not to post an open comment or question please email precinct@busselton.wa.gov.au

Background Information - Performing Arts and Convention Centre

Progression of a new Performing Arts and Convention Centre in the Busselton Cultural Precinct has been endorsed by Council after many years of consideration. While the design process is well underway, the final decision to progress with construction of the project will be made after the tender process has been completed.

The project has met with some concern primarily over:

  • Costs
  • Impact on Rates
  • Timing
  • A perceived lack of investigation and community involvement
  • Benefit to the community

To help you form your own opinion on the merit of this project, we ask that you consider the facts and open your mind to the economic, social and cultural opportunities the development presents.

Let’s consider cost!

A 2012 Cultural Needs Assessment identified the requirement for a 300 seat theatre in the district. Council accepted this report as a guide to future planning. A construction budget of $20 – $22m was identified for the future theatre at that time. Nearly 10 years later we’ve seen rapid population growth and progressing with a 300 seat theatre would simply be a waste of money.

The new centre designs include a 600 seat multi-purpose auditorium and as a result, the project cost has increased to between $28.5m and $30.3m depending on whether or not the creative industries hub is progressed at this stage. This is not an unrealistic cost increase over the timeframe especially noting the additional features which have been incorporated in the design to ensure the facility’s long-term sustainability. Along with the creative industries hub, these features include a convention centre and art gallery.

In 2019 the City received an offer of $10.35m from the Federal Government to advance this project. Sale of the old Library building site in Mitchell Park has seen a further $2.6m directed toward the project. The project may benefit for additional State Government funding which could significantly reduce the size of a loan needed to close the capital funding gap and progress the project. The loan required could be as high as $15m but it could be a lot lower. Either way, with interest rates currently around 2%, fixed for the whole term and spread over 20 years, repayment is very manageable. If we don’t progress with the development the City will be required to hand the $10.35m back to the Federal Government with little likelihood of re-securing funding in the future.

Just like any other major community asset, there will be annual running costs associated with this development. The estimated annual cost will be around $1.2m which includes funds put aside for future maintenance and renewal.

This is less than the cost of operating our libraries and comparable to costs associated with running our leisure centres. With Council proposing to invest $37m into sport and recreation over the next 10 years, isn’t it about time we invested in culture and arts?

Impact on Rates

At 2%, fixed over 20 years, the cost of the construction loan can largely be absorbed by the City of Busselton with little impost on ratepayers. Over the next few years several higher interest rate loans will be repaid by the City. Given this and the fact that repayments of the new loan will not commence for two years, we do not see any significant change in rates associated with loan repayments.

Yes there will be ongoing costs to ratepayers associated with operating and maintenance as is the case for all community assets. We estimate that average general rates will increase by $40 per annum in the first full year of the venue’s operation. As the ratepayer base expands with population growth, it could be well less overtime. Importantly the capital costs associated with this development will be shared across generations of users – they are not incumbent on current ratepayers

How about the timing?

Yes historically low interest rates make this a good time to proceed but stimulating the local economy in the post COVID-19 environment is equally important. The State and Federal Government has asked Local Governments to identify shovel-ready projects to create jobs and to focus on local procurement and services – this is what we are doing.

This development will support local recovery during the construction phase and as an ongoing entity. Importantly there will be longer-term benefits for the tourism, events, retail and accommodation industries which are some of our major employers.

Activating Queen Street is essential to revitalising our town centre. Central to this is linking the foreshore to the CBD, being able to host large conferences and attract more events especially during winter.

The timing of this development has never been more critical.

Has it been properly investigated?

Extensive research, market analysis and industry consultation has been undertaken over the past decade. In 2016 the South West Development Commission identified and accepted a performing arts and convention centre in the City of Busselton as a major priority alongside the airport upgrade (SW Blueprint).

Since then the City has developed two project business cases. The first secured $10.35m in Federal funding and the more recently updated version is being considered by the State Government now. You can view the most recent business case in the Your Say library.

Over the years we’ve sought input from industry experts and visited similar centres operating across the state and country. We looked very closely at what works – and what doesn’t! It was clear from these investigations that designing a fit-for-purpose facility was essential to its success.

The City has liaised particularly closely with the Glasshouse in Port Macquarie which is a similar-sized regional City with many like attributes. You can read more about the Glasshouse here

Underpinned by a passenger-ready regional airport, a multi-million dollar foreshore upgrade, future hotel developments and a strong events and tourism profile, the case for the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre is very robust.

What community involvement!

Community engagement on this project extends back to 2008. Visit the Your Say document library to view a timeline of engagement and decision making associated with the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre.

Benefit to the community

The Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre is designed as a multi-functional facility, providing new experiences and opportunities for all ages to enjoy and benefit from. It will be a place to perform, graduate or receive an award with an audience of family and friends. You can meet for casual drinks in the laneway bar before enjoying a meal in the CBD.

Local businesses will have the opportunity to cater for conference dinners, exhibit and network at tradeshows and conventions. Accommodation providers and tourism operators will benefit from increased visitation as will local restaurateurs, café owners and retailers. The new centre will enable the City to expand event offerings and provide a suitable sized home for CinefestOZ.

Inspired by opera, ballet and orchestra performances, locals may like to take a drama, music or dance class – we’ll have the space and the facilities you need! Those interested in local produce can savour South West delicacies, boutique wines and craft beers at expos which, given the multi-functional floor space, can also cater for car, boat and camping shows.

The centre is an investment in our future

Cultural Interpretation Strategy - Update 11 August 2020

To help determine how the new performing arts and convention centre will integrate with other elements of the Cultural Precinct and the broader town centre, the City asked community members to provide feedback on what's important to them in this space and what the Cultural Precinct means to them. A survey was conducted between 15 July and 6 August and just under 250 responses were received - thanks to everyone who took the time to participate.

This feedback is now being analysed by Ink Strategy, an independent consulting firm who have worked on similar strategies in high profile cultural precincts and public spaces such as Perth, Chinatown Broome, Rottnest Island Gateway and Yagan Square.

The outcomes of this consultation initiative will be posted on this site.

Discussions: All (12) Open (12)
  • A Busselton performing arts centre, with the proposed location and costs, has lots of issues.

    by Concerned ratepayer, about 1 month ago
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    So, some Busselton residents want a performing arts centre - how many? Some want it in the middle of the cultural precinct between the Weld Theatre and the art gallery - how many? I have many issues about this project and the Council's push to steamroll this project ahead. For example, the location is wrong - the Council talks about future city growth but this site will not allow for any further expansion. It's the wrong location! Parking - totally lacking. Add the congestion from the hotels and brewery, plus restaurants and it's going to be a nightmare of traffic. Costs - these keep rising, then falling but whatever the final figure MIGHT be, it will still involve extensive borrowings which we, the ratepayers, will pay for. Along with the expected but unknown operating losses, we will pay with ever increasing rates. Timing - this is a time when people and businesses are suffering from the effects of COVID-19. The Council should have priorities aimed more at helping the community, not large-scale capital works of dubious consequences. Lack of consultation and transparency - who is being consulted, what is going on, how much will this all cost etc etc? How is this 'thing' going to help local shops, businesses, increase the vibrancy of the town, as claimed? We might need a PAC but not now, not there and not at that price!

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  • Cultural Precinct a bonus for Busselton

    by Johnno, 19 days ago
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    I would like to thank the CoB for the information available concerning the Cultural Precinct proposal.

    This development would be a huge boost and benefit for Busselton and the whole area. It would totally revitalize the CBD as well as being a long term asset for the whole community.

    I think the current Council and past Councils have done a fantastic job in pushing for this development over many years.

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